Arkansas Death Row Inmates Appeal To U.S. Supreme Court

Apr 19, 2017

Credit Wikipedia

A group of Arkansas inmates is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block upcoming executions in the state, citing concerns with one of the lethal injection drugs.

The request was filed Wednesday by the eight inmates for whom Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled execution dates this month. A ninth death-row inmate who does not have a scheduled execution date also signed on to the request.

Last week, a federal judge in Little Rock blocked the executions, citing concerns with the sedative midazolam that has been used in problematic executions in other states. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order Monday, and the inmates appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Arkansas attorney general's office responded by asking the high court to reject the inmates' request. The state described the challenge as a last-minute delay that would "manipulate the judicial process."

The filing also detailed the killings that sent the men to death row and argued that justice has been denied to the victims' loved ones. "As is oft said, justice delayed is justice denied," the filing said.

Two executions are set for Thursday, followed by another double execution Monday and a single execution April 27. A double execution planned for earlier this week was halted by the state Supreme Court. A federal judge this month halted the last of the executions.

Click here to read the inmates request for a stay. Click here to read the inmates' petition for a writ of certiorari.

Death row inmates Stacey Johnson (left) and Ledell Lee who are scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday.
Credit Arkansas Department of Correction

Meanwhile one of the inmates set to die Thursday night is asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to block his execution so he can pursue more DNA tests in hopes of proving his innocence.

A judge in Pulaski County on Tuesday rejected the request for DNA testing from inmate Ledell Lee. Attorneys for the inmate filed a request Wednesday for a stay with the state's highest court.

There are no current stays blocking the executions, but Lee and Stacey Johnson, the other inmate to die Thursday, have pending court challenges.

Hutchinson originally scheduled eight executions to occur before the end of April, when one hard-to-acquire lethal injection drug expires. But courts have blocked three of those executions from going forward.