Arkansas Executions 2017

As Arkansas's execution plans, initially scheduling an unprecedented eight lethal injections over an 11 day period drew national and international attention, news staff from KUAR and Arkansas Public Media have been reporting the blow-by-blow developments for NPR programs and news outlets worldwide. Below you can hear or find links to many of those reports. The entire news team has also been regularly filing short newscast reports for NPR News.

On this edition of KUAR's Week-In-Review Podcast we sit down with Bobby Ampezzan and Sarah Whites-Koditschek of Arkansas Public Media to talk about the story that has consumed the state this week: the first execution carried out in 12 years. We discuss the night of the execution, the legal developments leading up to it — including decisions by state and federal courts — and have a look ahead to next week when three more executions are scheduled.

A federal judge says she won't block two inmates from being executed next week in Arkansas, rejecting the men's claims that their poor health could make the lethal injections especially painful.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker denied requests to stop the executions for Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, both of which are scheduled for Monday night.

Williams argues that his obesity and diabetes could make the lethal injections too painful. Jones argues that his diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions could cause him to suffer an "extended and painful death."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
npr.org

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch ruled in his first big case late Thursday night. It allowed Arkansas to move forward with executions after a nearly 12 years lull.

The newest Supreme Court Justice’s vote helped reconstitute the court’s 5-4 conservative majority. Gorsuch joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito in denying death row inmate Ledell Lee’s appeals. He was executed last night.

Arkansas has carried out its first execution since 2005, just four minutes before the inmate's death warrant was set to expire.

Ledell Lee's execution was scheduled for 7 p.m., but an evening of appeals kept him alive longer. The U.S. Supreme Court nearly halted his execution at one point in the evening but ultimately decided, 5 to 4, that the state could proceed.

"A lethal injection was administered at 11:44 p.m. and the coroner pronounced Ledell Lee dead at 11:56 p.m.," announced Soloman Graves, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Correction.

The scene outside the Arkansas Governor's Mansion before the execution of Ledell Lee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas has executed its first death row inmate in nearly 12 years after clearing numerous legal challenges. While the death penalty is a popular form of punishment in Arkansas, a devoted few dozen protestors have been showing up this week at Governor Asa Hutchinson’s residence. 

Over the course of the day, the vigil for Ledell Lee ebbed and flowed in attendance. There was a constant crowd size of about 50 people.

Many people, including Sandra Cone, stayed for six hours until the state’s last hour execution.

Ledell Lee
Arkansas Department of Correction

Arkansas has executed an inmate for the first time in nearly a dozen years as part of its plan to execute several inmates before a drug expires April 30, despite court rulings that have already spared three men.

Ledell Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Thursday. The 51-year-old Lee was given the death penalty for the 1993 death of his neighbor Debra Reese, whom Lee struck 36 times with a tire tool.

Arkansas’s execution secrecy law prevents the identities of drug manufacturers and sellers from being public. It also protects the identities of people carrying out executions.

 

But inmates’ attorneys say that secrecy, and a general lack of information about the state’s lethal injection protocol, obscure whether adequate safeguards are in place to use the controversial drug midazolam.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is allowing the state to use a lethal injection drug in upcoming executions, despite a supplier's complaint that it was sold to the state to be used only for inmates' medical care.

Justices on Thursday lifted a judge's order preventing the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs used in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol. McKesson Corp., a medical supply company, said the state misleadingly bought the drug and that it wasn't intended for executions.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

UPDATE 11:30 p.m.: The Department of Correction reversed its policy without explanation and media witnesses will be able to take notes during the execution of Ledell Lee this hour.

ORIGINAL POST: If courts do end up giving the go-ahead on Arkansas’s execution plans, media will have less rights to document the execution than just about anywhere else in the nation. Three members of the media are allowed by the state to witness an execution but officials are banning the use of paper and pencil to take notes – forcing reporters to rely solely on memory.

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