Arkansas governor disappointed by court ruling

McKesson had originally sued Arkansas last week in state court, but withdrew that action when a federal court on Saturday issued stays that temporarily halted the executions of the eight inmates.

The state then appealed only Davis' stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court. But Arkansas has encountered multiple legal roadblocks, and the latest ruling from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray over the drug vecuronium bromide upends the entire schedule.

"This Court does not find that the proposed testing would raise a reasonable probability that the defendant did not commit the offense", state Circuit Judge Herbert Wright wrote in a ruling, which Lee's lawyers have appealed.

McKesson Medical-Surgical - a pharmaceutical supply company - claims that the Arkansas Department of Corrections duped them into providing 100 vials of the second drug in the lethal injection protocol, vecuronium bromide, believing they were providing it for medicinal reasons.

Two inmates are scheduled for execution Thursday night with three more executions planned for next week. Arkansas officials are trying to carry out the executions before their supply of midazolam, one of the execution drugs used, expires at the end of April.

A group of Arkansas inmates is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block upcoming executions in the state, citing concerns with one of the lethal injection drugs.

Jason McGehee, who was to be put to death on April 27, received a month-long stay two weeks ago because of a parole board's clemency recommendation.

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"We've established that modern DNA testing methods can prove Mr Johnson's innocence, and Arkansas law clearly established that Mr Johnson is entitled to that testing", said Karen Thompson, a staff attorney with the Innocence Project, which filed the appeal along with Johnson's attorney.

Lee, who is also black, was sentenced to death in 1993 for the murder of his neighbor, a white woman. The filing says: "As is oft said, justice delayed is justice denied".

Attorneys had requested the stay while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a separate case concerning inmates' access to independent mental health experts. In that order, the state supreme court did not elaborate on its reasoning. Two inmates, Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee, are scheduled for execution April 20 and both are claiming innocence.

Davis had already been served a last meal of fried chicken, rolls, beans, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake, and witnesses were being moved toward the execution chamber when the Supreme Court ruled just minutes before his death warrant expired at midnight. The series of 4-3 decisions blocking start of what had been an unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days were only the latest in recent years preventing this deeply Republican state from resuming capital punishment. Arkansas Department of Correction Deputy Director Rory Griffin said he didn't keep records of the texts, but McKesson salesman Tim Jenkins did.

After criminal defense attorney Yodit Tewolde explained that "for Arkansas to try to rush executions for the sake of a drug expiring at the end of the month is disrespectful to the intent of justice in this case", Scott ignored her point and flippantly remarked that it "seems odd" to characterize the response to a crime that happened in 1992 as a "rush to judgment".

The high court's order sparing Davis offered no explanation, but none of the justices voted in favor of lifting the stay.

Lawyers for the inmates were not immediately available after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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