Thanks to recently sworn in associate Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Arkansas was able to proceed with executions of eight inmates on death row. Gorsuch’s vote broke the tie and was the deciding vote in allowing the state to proceed with their scheduled executions. Attorneys for Arkansas were being challenged in their quest to execute the eight death row inmates before the drug’s expiration date at the end of April.
Joining Gorsuch in the 5 – 4 which allowed the executions to proceed were Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.
At the heart of the argument to block the executions was the claim by the inmates that the drug that would be used to put them to death, midazolam, could cause an “unnecessarily painful death.”
Shortly after the ruling, convicted murderer Ledell Lee became the first inmate executed by the state of Arkansas in 12 years after he stay of execution was rejected. Lee was convicted in 1993 for the murder of Debra Meese.
Meese was sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a tire thumper tool, a tool used to check tire pressure. Meese isn’t the only person Lee was raped and/or murdered.
Lee has been called a super predator by prosecutors. After being charged with the murder of Reese, he became a suspect in other crimes. Lee was convicted for the rape of two Jacksonville women and was accused of the murder and rape of 22-year-old Christine Lewis.
Since that time, Lee maintained his innocence and was attempting to get additional DNA testing.
With Lee’s execution, there are seven more death row inmates set to be executed in Arkansas for their crimes before the end of the month.