The Arkansas Supreme Court late on Wednesday stayed the execution of Stacey Johnson, one of two inmates due to die yesterday, and returned his case to the trial court for reconsideration of potential DNA evidence, handing the state another obstacle as it tried to execute eight prisoners in 11 days.
Minutes later a state circuit judge granted a temporary restraining order barring the state from using one of three drugs employed in its execution protocol.
The order was requested by McKesson Medical-Surgical, which has accused the state of obtaining the drug, pancuronium bromide, under false pretenses.
McKesson said it would not have sold the drug to the Arkansas prison system had it known it would be used in executions. The company is demanding that the drug either be returned or impounded.
Arkansas officials have said they are unable to obtain the necessary drug from any other source and have acknowledged in court papers that should McKesson prevail, all pending executions would be effectively blocked.
The state had planned to execute the inmates in four pairs over 11 days. The sentences of three of the prisoners were stayed in earlier proceedings.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said through her spokesman, Judd Deere, that she would appeal the restraining order to the state Supreme Court.
An appeal of Johnson’s stay of execution was undecided, Deere said.
Pending before the US Supreme Court is an appeal by all eight inmates, who contend the compressed execution schedule increased the likelihood of a botched execution and that one of the three drugs — midazolam — has been proven ineffective in rendering unconsciousness prior to administration of the two lethal agents.
A federal appeals court had rejected their arguments after a district judge had sustained them.
The executions set for yesterday would have been the first in Arkansas in a dozen years, and the eight together would have been the most for any state in as a short a period since the US death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson set the unprecedented schedule due to one of the drugs in the state’s lethal injection mix expiring at the end of the month.
He said on Wednesday he was “both surprised and disappointed” by the delays.
Johnson was convicted of the 1993 murder and sexual assault of Carol Heath. Prosecutors said he beat, strangled and slit Heath’s throat while her six-year-old daughter watched.
Johnson’s lawyers said experts have proven the child’s testimony was unreliable. They also said the execution should be put on hold to allow for newer types of DNA testing that were previously unavailable.
“Today’s techniques are much more sophisticated and precise than the methods used before trial,” attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said after the ruling. “We think it will go a long way toward exonerating him.”
Rutledge said in a statement that the decision would be upsetting to Heath’s family.
Lee was convicted of beating Debra Reese to death with a tire iron in 1993. On Tuesday, a state judge denied a motion from Lee’s lawyers for DNA testing.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete