Arkansas Inmates Make Longshot Bid to Avoid Double Execution
Sat Mar 25, 2017 08:38

Arkansas inmates make longshot bid to avoid double execution

ANDREW DeMILLO,Associated Press 20 hours ago
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VARNER, Ark. (AP) — Two Arkansas inmates scheduled for back-to-back lethal injections next month asked the parole board Friday to spare their lives, a longshot bid as the state prepares for an unprecedented four nights of double executions over a 10-day period.
While Texas has executed eight people in a month — twice in 1997 — no state in the modern era has executed that many prisoners in 10 days.
Stacey Johnson and a lawyer for Ledell Lee asked board members to recommend that Gov. Asa Hutchinson commute their sentences.

Such efforts typically fail.
The board planned to deliberate Friday afternoon in Little Rock after hearing from relatives of the men's victims, but did not indicate when it would announce its decision.

Of the 27 people executed in Arkansas since 1990, 20 had clemency requests rejected and the others didn't apply. In 1999, against the parole board's recommendation, Gov. Mike Huckabee reduced Bobby Fretwell's sentence to life without parole after a juror said he went along with Fretwell's condemnation because he didn't want to be ostracized in his small town.

Johnson and Lee are set to die April 20. Other double executions are set for April 17, 24 and 27.

A key execution drug, the controversial sedative midazolam, expires three days after Kenneth Williams is set to go to the death chamber. Arkansas has had trouble obtaining the three lethal drugs it needs to put the men to death.

To address its trouble, Arkansas now extends secrecy to anyone involved in supplying drugs. A lawsuit filed Thursday by a Little Rock attorney contends Arkansas is violating the law by refusing to release documents proving they acquired three lethal drugs from legitimate sources.

The Arkansas Department of Correction used to release package inserts accompanying vials of the deadly drugs but says it no longer will do so because The Associated Press in 2015 used their distinct design to unmask the manufacturers.

Friday's hearings were the first of five set over the coming week. Others are set Monday and next Friday.
"I'm about to lose my life for a crime I didn't commit," Johnson told the board at the Varner Unit prison, not far from where he is to be put to death.
Lee's lawyer, Lee Short,
said his client skipped the hearing with the belief that his due-process rights have been violated throughout the case.

"He's got a skepticism of any government hearing, and one that is well-founded," Short said.

The lawyer also complained that the inmates had too little time to put together a meaningful clemency request after their death warrants were signed less than four weeks ago.

Johnson, 47, was condemned for the 1993 death of Carol Heath,
who was beaten and strangled and had her throat slit. DNA evidence included a hair found on Carol Heath's body. A cigarette butt found in the pocket of a shirt left at a roadside park with Heath's blood on it also had Johnson's saliva on it.
Melissa Cassidy, Heath's sister, urged the board to deny Johnson's request and said the convicted killer had shown no remorse for the crime.

"It's been hell I've been living in ... I just want closure and I want justice to be done," Cassidy told the board.

Lee, 51, was sentenced to die for the 1993 death of Debra Reese, a neighbor who was beaten to death in her home with a tire iron that her husband had given her for protection. She was struck 36 times. Parole board paperwork shows that Lee spells his first name "Ledell" but the Arkansas Department of Correction lists it as "Ledelle."
Joseph Lucky, Reese's son, called Lee "the embodiment of the evil that should never have to exist in this world.

"I'm just asking you to please give my family our closure. Deny his clemency, please," he told the panel.

The eight inmates are also counting on other court challenges to block their executions. The inmates have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision not to review a state court decision upholding Arkansas' lethal injection law and protocol.


Associated Press Writer Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock, Arkansas contributed to this report


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at


With April 20 execution date approaching, two death row inmates seek clemency
Posted By Benjamin Hardy on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 6:45 PM
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ASKING FOR CLEMENCY: Stacey Johnson and attorney Jeff Rosenzweig address the Parole Board at the Varner Unit. - KATV

Executive clemency hearings began on Friday in advance of Arkansas's upcoming execution dates for eight inmates on death row.

This morning, the Arkansas Parole Board heard from Stacey Johnson and an attorney for Ledell Lee, both of whom are scheduled to die by lethal injection on April 20. (Lee chose not to address the board himself.) The hearings took place at Varner Unit.

Both Johnson and Lee were sentenced to die in 1993 for capital murder. Johnson was convicted by a Sevier County jury for the rape and murder of Carol Heath, whose daughter — 6 years old at the time — was a witness to the crime. Lee was convicted in Pulaski County for the murder of Debra Reese, a resident of Jacksonville. Prosecutors say he was also responsible for a string of violent rapes and an additional murder in the same Jacksonville neighborhood.

Both men maintain they are innocent. "I'm about to lose my life for a crime I didn't commit," Johnson told the board. He also implied he was the victim of a conspiracy involving a corrupt criminal justice system and law enforcement. "A whole lot of people want to silence me," he said.

The parole board will likely make its recommendations to Governor Hutchinson in the next few days.

In the afternoon, the parole board held additional hearings at its offices in Little Rock, where family members of the murder victims urged the panel to deny the clemency requests. Among them was Jonathan Erickson,

the son of Carol Heath, who was 2 years old at the time of her murder. "I don't understand why this needs to take so long," he said, adding later, "it always seems to come back to this room," meaning before the parole board.

In contrast to her brother, Ashley Heath, the daughter of Carol Heath, had previously asked for clemency for Johnson, saying she simply wanted the process to be over after more than two decades of appeals. In a statement today, however, Ashley Heath said she was neither asking for Johnson to die nor asking for his life to be spared. She would leave the decision in the hands of the parole board and the governor, she said.

Hearings held ahead of Arkansas’ planned executions
Arkansas News Bureau Fri, Mar 24 9:16 AM PDT

LITTLE ROCK — Family members of the victims of two Arkansas inmates scheduled to be executed next month made emotional pleas Friday to the state Parole Board not to recommend clemency for the victims’ convicted killers.

In back-to-back victim-input hearings at its headquarters in downtown Little Rock, the board heard from the families of Debra Reese of Jacksonville and Carol Jean Heath of De Queen. Ledelle Lee, 51, has been sentenced to die for Reese’s 1993 slaying, and Stacey Eugene Johnson, 47, has been sentenced to die for Heath’s slaying, also in 1993.

Lee, Johnson and six other condemned inmates are scheduled to be executed over an unprecedented 10-day span in April as Arkansas rushes to ...
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Arkansas Inmates Scheduled for Double Execution Ask Parole Board to Spare Their Lives
KARK Little Rock 13 hours ago
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Clemency hearings started Friday at the Varner Unit for five of the eight death row inmates whose executions are next month. Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee, who are scheduled for back-to back lethal injections April 20, asked the Arkansas Parole Board to spare their lives Friday morning, recommending that Gov.

Asa Hutchinson commute their sentences. More than 20 years after the brutal murders of two Arkansas mothers, both Johnson and Lee maintain their innocence.

"I'm about to lose my life for a crime in which I didn't commit," Johnson told the board. "I'm not sitting here saying I'm no angel because I'm not an angel at all. There's a whole lot of people who want me dead. ...
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A link to read the Reverse speech analysis from the video will be posted at APFN tomorrow.

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