Arkansas, in its first use of death penalty in the last 12 years, executed prisoner Ledell Lee, who was convicted for murder back in 2003. Lee was executed by injection of a lethal drug and was declared dead on Friday, April 21. According to a spokesman from the Department of Corrections, Lee’s execution took place at a death chamber located in the Cummins Unit prison.

Hiccups along the way

The court ruling for the execution order was obtained after crossing several hurdles and challenges. The execution order came after the United States Supreme Court rejected a challenge from Lee’s attorneys.

Nina Morrison, a senior attorney with the Innocence Project represented Lee. She accused the state of Arkansas of rushing several executions before the supply of the execution drug ends at the end of April.

Another motion that was blocking Lee’s execution was an appeal from the drug supplier. Their lethal injections are being used to kill the prisoners. The supplier had accused the state of misleading the drug company to obtain that specific drug.

However, on Thursday, April 20, the Supreme Court overturned that ruling.. Lee’s request for a stay on the execution - his third to date - was also denied by the court.

Ledell Lee and his crimes

Lee was convicted of murdering his neighbor Debra Reese, who was struck to death 36 times with a tire tool that her husband had given her for protection.

A prison spokesman said that Lee did not give a final statement and even declined his last meal. Instead he requested communion in his last final hours.

Lee has been on the death row for the last 20 years. In an interview with BBC he maintained that he was innocent and living on Death Row was nothing short of a nightmare. Deborah Rutledge, an attorney general in Arkansas, shared that she hoped that the execution would finally give closure for the Reese family.

Eight inmates on Arkansas death row

Arkansas had originally planned to execute eight inmates in a period of 11 days, before the supply of the lethal injection drug – midazolam, taken in combination with two other drugs – expired on April 30. However, the first three death sentences got canceled due to several court rulings.

The other inmate, Satcey Johnson has been given additional stay time in order to get results of an advanced DNA testing which could prove his innocence in court. Johnson was arrested for the murder of Carol Heath in 1993. Heath was beaten to death and found dead in her flat with a slit throat.