Arkansas Executions on Hold As State Files Appeals

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All executions are on hold in Arkansas after a judge issued a restraining order against the use of a key lethal injection drug yesterday, CNN reports. The state had planned to execute eight inmates over 10 days starting this past Monday, before its supply of the drug runs out at the end of the month. Court decisions both from the state and U.S. Supreme Courts had granted all eight inmates a temporary reprieve, but some were overturned.

The state Supreme Court granted Stacey Johnson a stay last night ruling 4-3 that he has a right to an evidentiary hearing after he requested DNA testing to prove his innocence. Johnson was convicted of murder in 1997, and had been scheduled to be executed today. A Pulaski County judge granted a restraining order against use of the lethal injection drug vecuronium bromide, which the state had purchased from distributor McKesson Medical-Surgical. That ruling put Ledell Lee’s execution on hold. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appealed the rulings to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Lee and Johnson are the only two inmates among the group of eight to consistently maintain their innocence.

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