Arkansas executes inmate after U.S. Supreme Court gives go-ahead


LITTLE ROCK, Ark., April 21 (Reuters) - Arkansas executed
its first inmate in 12 years on Thursday after the U.S. Supreme
Court rejected the inmate's request to halt the lethal injection
in a late-night ruling.
    Ledell Lee, 51, was the first to be put to death out of a
group of eight men that Arkansas originally planned to execute
within a span of 11 days, before the expiration of one of the
drugs the state uses for the lethal injection.
    The rapid pacing of the planned executions prompted a flurry
of legal challenges and renewed a debate over executions in the
United States, with lawyers for the inmates arguing that
Arkansas was in an unseemly rush that offended standards of
    Courts have halted four of those executions as arguments
continue over death-penalty protocols, but the Supreme Court
denied the petitions for the group. 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.
    In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said he took
issue with the state trying to use the drugs before their
expiration date.
    "In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining
factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to
random," he wrote.
    One of the drugs in the Arkansas mix, midazolam, had been
used in flawed executions in Oklahoma and Arizona, where
witnesses said the inmates appeared to twist in pain on
death-chamber gurneys.
    The Supreme Court decision cleared the way for Lee's
execution, and he was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. CDT (0456
GMT Friday) at the state's death chamber in its Cummins Unit
prison, a Department of Corrections spokesman said. Lee did not
make a final statement.
    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 and told media Lee deserved to die for a
crime that ripped their lives apart.
    Lee had maintained his innocence for years and was seeking
DNA tests his lawyers said could prove his innocence.
Journalists present said there was no visible reaction from Lee
after the drug mix was administered.
    "I pray this lawful execution brings closure for the Reese
family," Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement.

 (Reporting by Steve Barnes; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing
by Bernadette Baum)
 ((; +1 646 223 5371; Reuters


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