On Thursday, Arkansas went through with the state’s first execution in 12 years. The execution came after a series of rejected appeals that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Once the Supreme Court gave the thumbs up, 51-year-old Ledell Lee was put to death. The execution by lethal injection was carried out just before midnight.
Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas’ Attorney General, said a federal appellate court had denied Lee’s stay of execution. Around 9 p.m. she posted to Twitter that a temporary stay issued earlier that day remained in place while the other appeals were being considered. Sometime after 11 p.m. the Supreme Court denied the appeal requests and gave the approval for the execution to be carried out, reports the Chicago Tribune.
The Arkansas Department of Corrections reported that the first drug was given to Lee at 11:44 p.m. Lee was pronounced dead shortly thereafter, at 11:56 p.m.
Lee had been incarcerated since 1995 for the murder of Debra Reese. She was beaten to death in her home after Lee broke into it. Lee has professed his innocence throughout his incarceration.
The Innocence Project contributed to Lee’s defense. Lee’s attorney requested a delay so that evidence gathered in his case could be sent for DNA testing.
Nina Morrison, an attorney for the Innocence Project says that Arkansas’ decision to rush the execution due to the fact that their supply of lethal drugs was expiring prevented Lee from getting the DNA testing that may have proved his innocence. Morrison says that no one should be executed if there is a chance they are innocent and a means to prove it, reports the Washington Post.
Arkansas had originally planned to have a series of executions over an 11-day period before their supply of lethal drugs expired at the end of the month. On Thursday night, legal challenges prevented Arkansas from going through with the executions.
Rutledge told the media that he hoped Lee’s execution brought the Reese family some closure. The Supreme Court played a key role in Thursday’s execution and stopping the other executions from being carried out, reports ABC News.
Justice Stephen Breyer stated that it was clear the reason Arkansas wanted to rush these executions had nothing to do with the heinous crimes committed, but was instead all based on the state’s desire to carry out the eight executions before their supply of lethal drugs went beyond the expiration date.
By Tammy Marie Rose
Photo Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections