Court clears the way for Arkansas to hold first execution in 12 years, but late filings have put proceedings on hold

Reuters
FILE PHOTO - Inmates Bruce Ward(top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee are shown in these booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS

Thomson Reuters


LITTLE ROCK, Ark., April 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday denied petitions to halt the execution of an Arkansas murderer, allowing the state to proceed with its first execution in 12 years after Arkansas's top court approved the use of a drug in its lethal injection mix.

The state is set to execute Ledell Lee at its Cummins Unit in Grady, which houses the state's death chamber sometime after 8:15 p.m. (0115 GMT).

A lawyer for Lee, who has maintained his innocence for years, launched a last-minute appeal to halt the execution with a federal court in Little Rock.

Lee was convicted and sentenced to death for beating Debra Reese to death with a tire iron in 1993.

Arkansas had planned to execute eight inmates in 11 days, the most of any state in as short a period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Courts have halted four of those executions.

The state's plan prompted an unprecedented flurry of legal filings and raised questions about U.S. death chamber protocols and lethal injection drug mixes. Back-to-back executions set for Monday were indefinitely halted.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Bill Trott)

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