On Monday, Arkansas officials planned to start an assembly line of executions – 8 in 10 days. After dozens of court challenges and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first two executions were halted.
But the state still hopes to carry out up to 5 executions before the end of next week, in order to use its supply of a controversial execution drug, Midazolam, before it expires at the end of April.
With legal challenges coming from all sides, the situation is changing by the minute. As it currently stands, all executions – including two originally scheduled for tonight – are on hold. But all of that could change, and the state is preparing the two men originally scheduled for execution tonight as if their executions will go forward. Both men have been denied DNA testing that could prove their innocence.
Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee both say they did not commit the crimes for which they were sentenced to death, and both say that newer DNA testing methods – ones not available at the time of their trials – could point to other suspects. The DNA testing that both are asking for is the same testing that law enforcement currently use to investigate and prosecute crimes. It’s hard to understand why Arkansas wants to carry out these executions without running such tests.
As it currently stands, Johnson has been awarded a stay to hear the case for his DNA testing, but the Arkansas Attorney General is appealing that ruling. Ledell’s appeal for DNA testing is still pending.
In a separate case, a judge issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the the Department of Corrections from using one of the drugs that is part of the execution protocol. The drug company that sold the drugs has asked the court to force the state to return them because the state purchased the drugs under false pretenses. The restraining order effectively puts all executions on hold, but again, Arkansas officials are appealing.
Lawyers for Johnson, Ledell, and the other men awaiting executions are also pursuing more legal avenues to stop the executions.
All of these legal challenges will likely come down to the wire this evening, especially since the death warrants for both Johnson and Ledell expire at midnight Central Time. EJUSA will do our best to have the latest information up on our Twitter feed, with special thanks to EJUSA Campaign Strategist Mona Cadena, who is on the ground in Little Rock, as well as to all of the members of the press who have been following these cases closely.