Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said Wednesday night he is "both surprised and disappointed" that the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Stacey Johnson, 47, one of two inmates scheduled to be executed Thursday night, part of the unprecedented eight executions Hutchinson had scheduled before the end of April. The first two executions, set for last Monday night, were blocked by court rulings, and if the Johnson stay isn't lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court, four of the eight inmates will have received temporary reprieves in court. Separately on Wednesday, a county judge blocked the state from using one of the three drugs in its lethal-injection cocktail, putting all of the planned executions in limbo.
The Alabama Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Johnson should be allowed to try to prove his innocence in a 1993 rape-murder using post-conviction DNA testing. A Pulaski County judge rejected a similar request from the other inmate scheduled to be put to death on Thursday, Ledell Lee, whose lawyers also argue he has an intellectual disability.
In the other case Wednesday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray sided with McKesson Corp., the country's largest drug distributor, which argued that the Alabama Department of Corrections had purchased its supply of vecuronium bromide under false pretenses, knowing that drugmaker Pfizer does not allow its products to be used for capital punishment. McKesson said that the Arkansas Department of Corrections had promised to return the drugs for a refund, but had pocketed the refund and kept the drugs. Another Pulaski County judge, Wendell Griffen, had also ruled in favor of McKesson over the weekend, but the Arkansas Supreme Court vacated his injunction on Monday because he had been photographed participating in an anti-death penalty protest.
Alabama had scheduled its four double executions in 11 days because its supply of a second lethal-injection drugs expires at the end of April.