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Arkansas death row inmate executed after injunction lifted

Arkansas has executed Ledell Lee in the US state's first use of the death penalty in 12 years

21 April 2017, 8:37am
Ledell Lee appears in Pulaski county circuit court on Tuesday 18 April for a hearing in which lawyers argued to stop his execution
Ledell Lee appears in Pulaski county circuit court on Tuesday 18 April for a hearing in which lawyers argued to stop his execution
Arkansas has executed Ledell Lee, the first of eight condemned prisoners that the Republican-controlled state had hoped to kill in the space of just 11 days.

Lee was pronounced dead at 11.46pm local time, just four minutes before his death warrant had been due to run out. The department of corrections had sprung into action shortly after 11.30pm local time (5:56am CET) on Thursday, after the US supreme court gave its leave for the killing to go ahead.

It is the first of a series of executions expected after the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling blocking the use of a lethal injection.

The prisoner was killed with a combination of three medical drugs: medazolam to sedate him, vecuronium bromide to paralyse him, and potassium chloride to stop his heart.

Lee did not make a final statement. Instead of a last meal, he asked to receive communion, an official said.

The state had planned to carry out eight executions in 11 days, before its supply of the lethal injection drug, midazolam, expired on 30 April.

The first three executions were cancelled due to various court rulings.

Lee, 51, was put on death row for the brutal 1993 murder of a 26-year-old mother named Debra Reese in her home in Jacksonville. He is said to have broken into the house and strangled her before beating her 36 times with a tire thumper. Lee always maintained his innocence of the Reese murder. Unknown fingerprints were found at the crime scene, none of them belonging to the prisoner.

The other inmate due to die on Thursday, Stacey Johnson, has been given a stay to make time for advanced DNA testing that his lawyers say could prove his innocence.

Johnson was convicted of the murder of Carol Heath, who was beaten and had her throat slit in her flat in 1993.

The ruling on Thursday paves the way for the series of executions the state had planned this month.

Like many US states, Arkansas has struggled to find the drugs it needs to carry out executions.

The last execution to be carried out in Arkansas was in 2005.