Arkansas State officials performed the lethal injection at 11:45 p.m., Thursday April 20. After being asked twice, Ledell Lee remorsefully declined to make a final statement. This is the states first execution since 2005, and took place at the Cummins Unit in Grady, where the state’s death chamber is located. Lee was officially deceased at 11:56 p.m. Central time, four minutes before his death warrant was due to expire. The entire process of Ledell’s death took eleven minutes, in which his legs, arms and head were strapped to a table with cloth covering the top of him.
In 1995 Lee was convicted of bashing Debra Reese to death with a tire iron and was sentenced to death. Members of Reese’s family attended Cummins Unit prison and told local media they believe Ledell deserves to die for committing an act of violent crime that tragically devastated their lives forever.
Lee had been hoping to be classified through diagnosis as having a disability or handicap such as fetal alcohol syndrome to help void himself from the death penalty. Lee’s attorneys have noted that he had long denied committing the murder, and was seeking newer DNA testing to help with proving his innocence. The U.S. Supreme court lifted the stay on his execution less than an hour before his death warrant had expired.
There are three more executions by lethal injection planned to take course next week, most likely Monday. The original plan is to have all eight of the men terminated before the lethal injection drugs expire. There has been protesting in Little Rock on this issue of the death penalty, especially with the “hurry up and execute before the last of our drug expires” type of motivation and energy floating around.
Hours before Ledell Lee passed, the Supreme Court just about halted his execution. Instead, a 5 to 4 vote allowed the state to press on with its plan, calling for the eight prisoners to be put to death in less than two weeks time. The court’s majority included the newest justice, Neil M. Gorsuch. Justice Stephen Breyer took more of the unjust attitude on how Arkansas wrote its execution schedule, which was persuaded by the approaching expiration of midazolam.
For the current Arkansas lethal injection concoction, Cummins Unit uses midazolam to cause initial heavy sedation, vecuronium bromide to cancel out breathing ability, and finally potassium chloride to shut the heart off and make you dead. McKesson Pharmaceuticals has reported that it sold its drug to the state of Arkansas for ‘medical purposes only’ because of the harsh repercussions that could fall in place if their name was connected to lethal injection. Midazolam has been linked to earlier recorded botched executions from the past two years. Current analytics point to this drug inducing ineffective levels of unconsciousness prior to the administration of the second and third sequential drugs.
An American Civil Liberties Union petition stated “Arkansas wants to use an execution drug combination – with midazolam – that’s never been used before in the state and that risks making prisoners feel as if they are burning alive from the inside while paralyzed”. Anti-death penalty activists have been protesting in Arkansas against what has been labelled “assembly line killings”. Aside from Lee, the seven death row inmates and their age include Bruce Ward 60, Don William Davis 54, Stacey Johnson 47, Jack Harold Jones 52, Marcel Williams 46, Jason McGehee 40, and Kenneth Willams 38.