WASHINGTON – Arkansas has carried out its first execution in 12 years, according to local news media reports.
The southeastern US state executed Ledell Lee on Thursday at its Cummins Unit in Grady, which houses the state’s death chamber.
The US Supreme Court had cleared the way earlier in the day for Arkansas to conduct the execution by removing holds on the lethal injection, just 30 minutes before the state’s death warrant expired.
Lawyers for Lee, 51, who had maintained his innocence for years, had launched last-minute appeals to halt the execution with federal courts and the Supreme Court.
The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St Louis considered a last-minute request from Lee for DNA testing, and had issued a stay until 9:15pm on Thursday (01:15 GMT Friday). The death warrant for Lee expired at midnight.
Lee was convicted and sentenced to death for beating Debra Reese to death with a tire iron in 1993.
Reese’s relatives were at the Cummins Unit prison and told local news media Lee deserves to die for a crime that upended their lives.
The Supreme Court ruling was the latest legal twist as Arkansas seeks to carry out a series of executions before one of the drugs used in its lethal injection mix, the sedative midazolam, expires by the end of the month.
Lawyers for the inmates argued that the state’s rush to the death chamber amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, violated the inmates’ right to counsel and their right to access the courts and counsel during the execution process.
The Supreme Court denied the petitions. One of them was a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with the four other conservative justices in denying the motion while the court’s liberals dissented.-Online