by Adam Knauer
Video Production Editor
Convicted murderer Ledell Lee was the first inmate in the state of Arkansas to be put to death in over a decade. Lee was given a lethal injection at 11:44 PM on Thursday, April 20, after a series of court rulings. He was pronounced dead 12 minutes later.
In 1995, Lee was charged with the murder of Debra Reese, who was found dead in her home in Jacksonville, Arkansas two years prior.
His execution followed a flurry of court rulings Thursday, capped by the US Supreme Court’s denial of multiple requests for stays of execution.
Right before Lee was put to death, he was given the chance to speak his final words twice, but Lee had no response. The state had planned to execute eight inmates over a 10-day span starting April 17, but were not able to for several reasons.
All of the attorneys for the eight men tried to stop the executions. One of their arguments stated that the drug, Midazolam, which makes inmates unconscious before two more drugs paralyze and kill them, should be considered cruel and unusual punishment because it does not prevent a painless death. The lawyers fought to conduct the executions in a shorter time frame. However, the state decided to proceed, as the lethal-injection drugs expire at the end of the month and they wanted to get the convicted inmates executed beforehand. The legal battles included the maker of the drug saying he was misled into selling to the prison system, without having the knowledge that it would be used for punishment.
In Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, and Oklahoma, the drug Midazolam has been criticized as a potential factor in botched executions. It was argued that the drug does not sedate the prisoners properly to allow them to die painlessly
Many have opposed the rushed judicial process and the inmates treatment as if they have an expiration date. “Today is a shameful day for Arkansas, which is callously rushing the judicial process by treating human beings as though they have a sell-by date,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
On Thursday night, when Lee was put to death, the United States Supreme Court delayed the execution as it reviewed appeals. They then voted, 5 to 4, to continue with the execution. A half an hour later after the ruling, Lee was pronounced dead.