Judge blocks Arkansas from using execution drug

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The state is trying to execute eight prisoners in 11 days before its supply of midazolam, the first lethal injection drug, expires by month's end.

Court decisions in recent weeks, both from the state and US Supreme Courts, had granted all eight inmates a temporary reprieve, but some were overturned.

Arkansas officials vowed to carry out a double execution later this week after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a setback to the state's plan to resume capital punishment for the first time in almost 12 years by refusing to lift an order sparing an inmate just minutes before his death warrant expired.

Johnson was convicted in Arkansas of the 1993 murder and sexual assault of Carol Heath.

Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson are slated for execution Thursday. The state Supreme Court also lifted a lower court ruling preventing the state from using another lethal injection drug that a supplier said was sold to be used for medical purposes, not executions.

Lee and Johnson are the only two inmates among the group of eight to consistently maintain their innocence.

An hour before Scott's show aired, correspondent Casey Stegall noted on Fox's America's Newsroom that "states have had a hard time getting new supplies of this drug [midazolam] because many critics say it should not be used to kill people".

Davis had already been served a last meal of fried chicken, rolls, beans, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake, and witnesses were being moved toward the execution chamber when the Supreme Court ruled just minutes before his death warrant expired at midnight. The other inmate scheduled for Thursday, Ledell Lee, argued unsuccessfully Tuesday in a Little Rock courtroom that he be given a chance to test blood and hair evidence that could prove he didn't beat 26-year-old Debra Reese to death during a 1993 robbery in Jacksonville. The justices often split on death penalty issues, with the conservative justices more willing to allow an execution to take place and the liberal justices more inclined to side with inmates. In that order, the state supreme court did not elaborate on its reasoning.

Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in almost 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary. A third man has received a stay from a federal judge over issues with his clemency schedule.

It is the first of three drugs used for lethal injections in several states, including Arkansas. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order Monday, and the inmates appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An inmate set to die Thursday night is asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to block his execution so he can pursue more DNA tests in hopes of proving his innocence.

But the state is pressing ahead with its efforts to put the men to death in back-to-back lethal injections Thursday night at its Cummins Unit in the town of Grady, about 75 miles southeast of Little Rock. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and The Innocence Project filed a suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court, which was denied April 18. There are no current stays blocking those executions, but both inmates have pending court challenges. In an amicus brief they filed with the district court, the companies wrote that using their medicines in executions "runs counter to the manufacturers' mission to save and enhance patients' lives".

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