Arkansas officials vowed to carry out a double execution later this week after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a setback to the state's plan to resume capital punishment for the first time in almost 12 years by refusing to lift an order sparing an inmate just minutes before his death warrant expired.
Convicted murderers Stacey Johnson, 47, and Ledell Lee, 51, each are seeking DNA testing their lawyers argue could prove they did not commit the crimes that sent them to death row.
Representatives from the attorney general's office were at the state Supreme Court on Thursday hoping justices would overturn a decision by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray that halted the use of vecuronium bromide in any execution. Anti-death penalty supporter Randy Gardner, right, embraces Abraham Bonowitz, left, after they read on his phone the 11:45 p.m., decision to halt the execution in their taped off "protest cor". A supplier has said it sold the drug to Arkansas to be used for medical purposes, not executions. A court official informally known as the death clerk keeps everyone up to date and communicates often with lawyers for inmates and the states as the date of execution nears.
Lawyers for the state of Arkansas are trying to light a fire under a judge who has been slow to file written paperwork involving a death penalty case. The state set such a compressed schedule because its supply of one of the lethal injection drugs expires at the end of April.
After criminal defense attorney Yodit Tewolde explained that "for Arkansas to try to rush executions for the sake of a drug expiring at the end of the month is disrespectful to the intent of justice in this case", Scott ignored her point and flippantly remarked that it "seems odd" to characterize the response to a crime that happened in 1992 as a "rush to judgment".
"That's something we had sought from the state and federal courts and had been denied, and we're making another run at it and showing that there are new techniques that came into effect literally this year that can provide results that can bear on the case", Rosenzweig said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled the eight executions to take place before the state's supply of midazolam expires April 30.
The company said that ADC placed the order for the drug over the phone and never disclosed that the drug was to be used for executions.
The legal challenge is one of several filed by the inmates.
But while Goodson voted to stay the three executions, so did the conservative-backed candidate who beat her in the chief justice race, Dan Kemp.
Griffin said he used phone calls and text messages a year ago to order one of Arkansas' three execution drugs. A McKesson salesman presented the texts at the court hearing, which showed no mention or indication that the drug would be used for lethal injections.
Another inmate, Ledell Lee, was scheduled for execution Thursday night and has a similar request pending for more DNA testing, though a Pulaski County judge ruled against him Tuesday.
Lawyers for the inmates set to be executed Thursday are relying primarily on claims the men are innocent.
The situation is a familiar one for Rebecca Petty, whose daughter's killer was granted a reprieve by federal courts hours before his execution in 2004. In fact, one of the orders blocking the executions was issued for that exact reason.