The Latest: Arkansas governor disappointed by court ruling

April 20, 2017 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Latest on Arkansas’ plan to execute several inmates before the end of April (all times local):

8:50 p.m.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is “surprised and disappointed” that the state Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution to Stacey Johnson, who was scheduled to be put to death Thursday.

In a statement late Wednesday, Hutchinson did not say whether the state would appeal the 4-3 decision. Hutchinson says he wants a clear explanation from the court majority as to how they came to the decision.

The state high court decision was one of two setbacks Wednesday to Arkansas’ bid to resume capital punishment after a 12-year hiatus.



6:35 p.m.

An Arkansas judge has blocked the state from using a lethal injection after a drug company argued it was misled by the state about the use of the drug, potentially halting the state’s plan to put several men to death by the end of the month.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order to McKesson Corp. The medical supply company says it sold vecuronium bromide to be used for inmate care. The drug is one of three used in Arkansas’ lethal injection protocol.

The ruling came moments after the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a stay to one of two men scheduled for execution Thursday night.


6 p.m.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions set for Thursday, saying the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing.

Stacey Johnson claims that advanced DNA techniques could show that he didn’t kill Carol Heath, a 25-year-old mother of two, in 1993 at her southwest Arkansas apartment.

In a 4-3 ruling late Wednesday afternoon, the state’s highest court issued a stay for Johnson and ordered a new hearing in lower court for Johnson to make his claims.

Johnson was set for execution Thursday night along with inmate Ledell Lee, who is also seeking a stay in a separate case.


5:10 p.m.

A group of Arkansas death-row inmates has filed another emergency stay request with the U.S. Supreme Court, this time challenging the state’s initial plan to execute eight inmates over 11 days before Arkansas’ supply of an execution drug expires.

The inmates claim in their request Wednesday that such a compressed schedule “is contrary to the evolving standards of decency.”

The legal challenge is one of several filed by the inmates. They include Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson, who are set for execution Thursday night.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled the eight executions to take place before the state’s supply of midazolam expires April 30. Three of those inmates have since received stays.



4:30 p.m.

A deputy director of the Arkansas prison system says he deliberately ordered an execution drug in a way so there wouldn’t be a paper trail.

Rory Griffin testified Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by medical supply company McKesson Corp., which is asking a judge to not allow Arkansas to use its drug in executions.

Griffin said he used phone calls and text messages last year to order one of Arkansas’ three execution drugs. He said he didn’t keep records of the texts, but a McKesson representative did.

Tim Jenkins of McKesson says Griffin never told him the drug would be used for executions. Griffin said he did tell Jenkins. In text messages from Jenkins’ phone, which came up at a court hearing Wednesday, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.


4 p.m.

The Arkansas attorney general’s office is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reject execution stays for a group of death row inmates, including five who are set for lethal injection over the next two weeks.

The state described the inmates’ challenge as a last-minute delay that would “manipulate the judicial process.”

Two inmates are scheduled for execution Thursday night with three more executions planned for next week.

The state’s response detailed the killings that sent the men to death row and argued that justice has been denied to the victims’ loved ones. The filing says: “As is oft said, justice delayed is justice denied.”


12:40 p.m.

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.

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.


10:55 a.m.

An inmate 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.

Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night. There are no current stays blocking those executions, but both inmates have pending court challenges.

Arkansas Gov. Asa 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.


12:30 a.m.

Lawyers for Arkansas inmates condemned to die Thursday in a planned double execution are claiming they are innocent and one of them says advanced DNA techniques could show he didn’t kill a woman in 1993.

Their strategy to win stays is in marked contrast to the first two inmates who faced the death chamber and were spared Monday by arguing they should not be put to death because of mental health issues.

Arkansas officials are vowing to press ahead despite the setback to plans to resume capital punishment after a 12-year hiatus. The state originally wanted to put to death eight men in 11 days but that is down to five after the two won stays Monday and a third was earlier put on hold by a federal judge.