All executions are on hold in the state of Arkansas after a judge issued a restraining order on a key lethal injection drug Wednesday.
The state had earlier planned to execute eight inmates over 10 days starting April 17, before Arkansas’ supply of the drug runs out at the end of the month.
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.
The state Supreme Court granted inmate Stacey Johnson a stay Wednesday night, ruling 4-3 that he has a right to an evidentiary hearing after he requested DNA testing to prove his innocence. Johnson was convicted of murder in 1997, and had been scheduled to be executed Thursday.
Only one inmate, Ledell Lee, was still scheduled to be executed Thursday night when a Pulaski County Circuit Court judge granted a restraining order on the lethal injection drug, vecuronium bromide, purchased from distributor McKesson Medical-Surgical. Lee’s execution is now also on hold.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed responses with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit regarding inmates Lee and Johnson’s requests to stay their respective executions.
A state judge had earlier issued a similar temporary restraining order on vecuronium bromide from McKesson, but the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned that order late Monday.
Lee and Johnson are the only two inmates among the group of eight to consistently maintain their innocence.