CUMMINS UNIT, Ark. —
The state of Arkansas executed death row inmate Ledell Lee late Thursday, April 20, its first death sentence in more than a decade and the first of four inmates scheduled to die before the end of the month when a crucial lethal injection drug is set to expire.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear five last-minute appeals by Lee’s attorneys to stay his execution, which began at 11:44 p.m. Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m., Arkansas Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelly said.
Lee, 51, was sentenced to death in October 1995 in Pulaski County, Arkansas, for the murder of 26-year-old Debra Reese. He declined to make a final statement, officials said. Three media witnesses reported that Lee remained under sedation during the procedure.
“His last meal request was that he receive communion, and he was given communion this afternoon,” Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves told reporters.
Because communion — a bread wafer and a small amount of wine representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ — was not a full meal, the Department of Correction offered to provide a meal on his behalf to the rest of the prison population. Lee declined.
The execution caps days of legal jostling by Lee’s defense lawyers and attorneys for the state of Arkansas over the state’s right to use a paralytic as part of its lethal injection cocktail. A court OKd the drug earlier Thursday.
Also part of the lethal injection drugs used on Lee was the controversial sedative midazolam. Arkansas’s store of the drug is set to expire at the end of the month and is what triggered the Department of Correction to plan an unprecedented string of eight executions in 10 days this month.
Midazolam has also come under fire for its reported lack of effectiveness in some instances. The sedative is supposed to render death penalty inmates unconscious and unable to feel pain during their executions, but in cases in Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona and Ohio in recent years, inmates were reportedly conscious and showed signs of extreme pain.
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