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Arkansas begins 11-day 'run' of executions

28 April 2017

Two condemned Arkansas killers who admit they're guilty but fear their poor health could lead to extreme pain during lethal injections set for Monday might become the first inmates put to death in a double execution in the U.S.in more than 16 years.

U.S. state Arkansas has carried out its first execution in 12 years as it rushes to use up its supply of lethal injection drugs before they expire at the end of the month.

The Supreme Court decision cleared the way for Lee's execution, and he was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. CDT (0456 GMT Friday) at the state's death chamber in its Cummins Unit prison, a Department of Corrections spokesman said. He did not appear to show signs of discomfort, according to Sean Murphy, a reporter with the Associated Press who attended the execution as one of three media witnesses.

McKesson Corp., a drug company, has asserted that the state of Arkansas bought vecuronium bromide under false pretenses; McKesson does not sell the drug for executions.

Ledell Lee, 51, was put to death by lethal injection just before midnight on Thursday.

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He was arrested less than half-an-hour after she was killed, spending money he had stolen from her. After another day of legal drama, the execution got underway shortly after word came that the U.S. Supreme Court would not take action to prevent the state from putting Lee to death via lethal injection.

Arkansas Supreme Court Judge Josephine Hart wrote in a dissenting opinion that it was unfair of the court to grant a stay to death-row inmate Stacey Johnson for DNA testing only a day before, while denying one to Lee. Another inmate scheduled for execution this week has received a stay from a federal court. As a result, the first three scheduled executions were abandoned because of court decisions.

Ledell Lee was executed Thursday in Arkansas' first execution since 2005.

The southeastern USA state executed Ledell Lee on Thursday at its Cummins Unit in Grady, which houses the state's death chamber. On Wednesday, the company said a state circuit court judge issued a verbal order prohibiting Arkansas from using this drug in executions, and a written order followed on Thursday morning.

Arkansas has carried out its first execution in almost a dozen years despite a flurry of legal challenges that had spared three other convicted killers.

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McKesson said it was disappointed in the court's ruling.

"Among all the companies we've met and spoken to recently not one has brought up anything related to the state's executions", he said.

Arkansas' protocol calls for use of midazolam to render the inmate unconscious, vecuronium bromide to stop breathing and potassium chloride to stop the heart. In several of the 31 states where executions are legal, drug shortages have often forced delays as manufacturers prohibit their use in executions.

Protestors gathered at the Governor's Mansion in protest of the execution. The state's elected prosecutors also criticised the roadblocks to the execution plans.

Furonda Brasfield, from the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said she was "dismayed that our governing officials wouldn't allow the innocence claims to be fully explored". The court also denied petitions and the writ of certiorari [text, PDF] filed on behalf of Lee and seven other death row inmates.

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Arkansas begins 11-day 'run' of executions