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Arkansas overcomes legal hurdles, carries out execution


Arkansas originally planned to carry out a series of eight executions over the span of just 11 days - an unprecedented number in such a short amount of time - before one of the drugs it uses in lethal injections expires at the end of the month. He was sentenced to death for the 1993 killing of Carol Heath, 25.

The execution had been held up at several points throughout the evening, with stays and appeals being reviewed simultaneously by both the federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier, it had issued a temporary stay until 9:15 p.m. ET, a decision that came less than 30 minutes before Lee's scheduled execution.

The state also has had to face criticism from drug companies unhappy that their products may be used in executions.

Courts had blocked the first two executions, which had been scheduled for Monday, as well as another that had been scheduled for Thursday.

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Arkansas Death Row Inmate Ledell Lee had all of his stay of executions lifted by the Supreme Court of the United States.

"Apparently the reason the state chose to proceed with these eight executions is that the "use by" date of the state's execution drug is about to expire.In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random", Justice Stephen Breyer wrote. European laws effectively prohibit the sale of drugs for execution purposes, and many U.S. companies also refuse to sell the chemicals for use in carrying out death sentences.

Throughout his more than two decades on death row, Lee maintained his innocence.

The AP past year used redacted drug labels to identify Hospira, which was purchased by Pfizer, as the likely manufacturer of Arkansas' vecuronium bromide. Preparations for the lethal injections, scheduled for Thursday night at 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT) and 8:15 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT on Friday), were underway, prisons spokesman Solomon Graves said.

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McKesson Corporation, a leading pharmaceutical distributor, said it had been "misled" when it agreed to sell the vecuronium bromide to Arkansas, accusing the state of not disclosing its intent to use the drug for executions.

One of the men scheduled to die, Jason McGehee, 40, now has a stay in place and is unlikely to face execution because the legal process would extend beyond the April 30 deadline. The state plans to execute 3 more prisoners next week.

Ledell Lee's execution was the first in the state since 2005.

Reports from ADC state that Lee's death certificate will state the cause of death as homicide. Arkansas Department of Correction Deputy Director Rory Griffin said he didn't keep records of the texts, but McKesson salesman Tim Jenkins did.

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Stacey Johnson, who was also slated to be executed on Thursday, was granted a stay from the same court on Wednesday after requesting further testing of DNA evidence in his case. An earlier ruling from the state Supreme Court allowing officials to use a lethal injection drug that a supplier says was obtained by misleading the company removed another remaining obstacle in Lee's execution. "Today's techniques are much more sophisticated and precise than the methods used before trial", attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said after the ruling. Lee's final appeals had requested DNA testing that could potentially prove his innocence, but those appeals were denied.

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