A federal district judge in Arkansas declined on Friday to block the lethal injections of two death row inmates scheduled to die tonight in a double-execution in the Cummins Unit at the state prison in Grady.
Jack Jones and Marcell Williams would be the second and third prisoners out of an unprecedented eight that Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson had scheduled for execution before the state’s supply of midazolam, one of the three drugs used in the state’s lethal injection protocol, expires at the end of the month.
Late Thursday night, Ledell Lee, 51, was the first prisoner put to death in Arkansas in nearly a dozen years. His execution came after a flurry of legal challenges and rulings Thursday, including an 11:30 p.m. decision by the US Supreme Court, allowing the lethal injection procedure to begin. Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m., just 4 minutes before his execution warrant expired.
Legal rulings, including temporary stays, have blocked the executions of four inmates: Jason McGehee, Bruce Ward, Stacey Johnson and Don Davis. Davis was 15 minutes away from execution April 17 when the Supreme Court declined to overturn a stay handed down earlier that day by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Arkansas prison authorities have acknowledged that legal issues in these cases cannot be resolved before the execution drug supply runs out at the end of April. Drugs for lethal injections have been increasingly difficult to obtain by death penalty states, largely due to companies, both in the US and Europe, not wanting their products associated with executions in general and executions gone awry in particular.