For the first time since 2005, the state of Arkansas used the death penalty on Ledell Lee last night.
Lee was sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of his neighbor Debra Reese. With Ledell's death warrant set to expire at midnight, the state carried out the execution after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reject a challenge claiming that Arkansas was rushing a number of executions because their supply of a lethal injection was expiring by the end of April.
McKesson Corporation, one of the state's lethal injections providers, tried halting the executions in court, arguing that the state prison system "never disclosed its intended purpose." The company argued that the Arkansas Department of Correction was gathering their product through a medically-licensed physician in the state, and asserting that they were using the drug for "a legitimate medical purpose." Earlier this month, two other companies, Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corporation, came forth asking the court to prevent their products from being used in executions after they "learned of information suggesting that medicines they manufactured might be used in lethal injections in Arkansas."
Lee was given three lethal injections: midazolam, which makes him unconscious; vecuronium bromide, to stop his breathing; and potassium chloride, to eliminate his heartbeat. According to Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy, who witnessed the execution, Lee appeared to be breathing after the first few minutes, but was unresponsive once a consciousness check was conducted.
Lee maintained his innocence until the time of his death. Arguing on behalf of Lee, the ACLU asked the court to conduct a new DNA tests on the blood found on his shoe and a hair found at the scene of the crime, arguing that the testing done at the time "wasn’t sophisticated enough." The state went through with the execution. When asked what he wanted for his final meal, Lee opted to have holy communion instead.
Over the next two weeks, the state intended to execute eight inmates, including Lee, but the court held up three of the executions. Arkansas plans on having two executions on Monday, and another on Thursday.