Inmate Ledell Lee was convicted of murder in 1995
Arkansas Supreme Court denied Lee's request for a stay
State's plan to execute eight inmates by end of April has been derailed
Arkansas’ plan to execute a death row inmate was on hold late Thursday as the US Supreme Court considered emergency motions in the case.
The high court issued a temporary stay of the execution of convicted murderer Ledell Lee until 9:30 p.m. ET, or pending further action by the court, whichever comes later.
While the high court was considering Lee’s fate, the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals denied multiple requests to halt Lee’s execution. Earlier Thursday night, the appeals court had issued, then extended, its own temporary stay of the execution, planned for 8 p.m. ET, while it reviewed those requests.
Prison authorities had been expected to proceed with the execution of Lee on Thursday evening after the Arkansas Supreme Court earlier denied his request for a stay and struck down a temporary restraining order on one of the drugs used in the lethal injection process.
Lee was convicted in 1995 in the murder of Debra Reese. If he is put to death, his killing will be Arkansas’ first execution since 2005. The state had earlier planned to execute eight inmates over 10 days starting April 17.
The Arkansas Department of Correction reported that Lee requested Holy Communion as his last meal Thursday night.
Stacey Johnson, who was also slated to be executed on Thursday, was granted a stay from the same court on Wednesday after requesting further testing of DNA evidence in his case. Johnson was convicted of the 1994 murder of Carol Heath.
Like Johnson, Lee had requested a stay for additional DNA testing, but the court denied the request.
The Arkansas Supreme Court also reversed a restraining order on the state’s use of vecuronium bromide, one of the three drugs used in lethal injections. A Pulaski County Circuit Court judge issued the order on Wednesday, putting all eight executions on hold.
Multiple last-minute legal challenges have derailed the state’s execution plans, which has been characterized as unprecedented.
The schedule has been attributed to the expiration date of Arkansas’ supply of midazolam, the first drug administered in the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections. The state’s supply of the drug expires at the end of April.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.