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.
In a press release, the group said newer DNA testing has "never been performed" in Johnson's case and could potentially prove his innocence.
Stacey Johnson was convicted of killing Carol Heath in 1993 in Sevier County, AR.
A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Tuesday that the state will make its arguments in the cases involving Davis and Ward before the state Supreme Court but will follow the current briefing schedule that the court has set, with deadlines into late May.
KTVH reports that anti-death penalty protesters have camped out in front of the governor's mansion in Little Rock in the weeks leading to the decision. McKesson Corp. says the state obtained the drug under false pretenses and that it wants nothing to do with executions. It's the quickest timetable in Arkansas since 1926, though state officials say waiting more than two decades to put some of the killers to death could hardly be characterized as swift. That would be the most in the United States in as short a period since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1976.
While the latest court rulings could be overturned, Arkansas now faces an uphill battle to execute any inmates before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires.
Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first executions in almost 12 years has been thwarted by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary. Under that timeline, the state would be unable to execute Ward and Davis before its supply of midazolam expires April 30.
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It takes five votes to get most things done at the court, including imposing or lifting a stay of execution.
Arkansas has faced a barrage of legal challenges, which have so far resulted in three of the executions being halted and criticism that it was acting recklessly.
A pair of death-row inmates scheduled for lethal injection Thursday evening have been transferred to the Cummins Unit, the location of the state's execution chamber, a prisons spokesman said Wednesday.
Griffin said he used phone calls and text messages a year ago to order one of Arkansas' three execution drugs. Arkansas department of correction deputy director Rory Griffin said he didn't keep records of the texts, but McKesson salesman Tim Jenkins did. 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. McGuire's execution lasted 25 minutes, the longest in Ohio's history, and witnesses said he "gasped several times throughout" before dying.
Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night. Four of the eight have been granted stays of execution.
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.
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.