The Arkansas Execution Marathon Has Been Fully Stopped—For Now (UPDATED)

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The state of Arkansas was scheduled to execute eight of its Death Row inmates in 11 days, starting this week. As of Thursday, all eight of the executions have been put on hold. (UPDATE: The Arkansas Supreme Court sided with the state in a crucial ruling on Thursday. See more details below.) 


The unprecedented marathon of death—spurred by the fast-approaching expiration of some of the drugs used to kill the prisoners—sparked an outcry from death penalty opponents and a flurry of activity in state and federal courts. It also had Arkansas’ penal system scrambling with the logistics of killing eight men in 11 days, including finding volunteers to watch the killings.

Rulings issued from both state and U.S. Supreme Courts have delayed each of the inmates’ executions. But a swath of appeals filed by the state of Arkansas continues to cast the immediate future of these death row inmates in jeopardy.

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Here’s a rundown of where the eight cases stand.

  • Stacey Johnson, who was convicted of murder in 1997, was granted a stay by the Arkansas State Supreme Court late Wednesday night in a 4–3 decision. He was one of two inmates scheduled to be executed today. Johnson had requested DNA testing to prove his innocence.
  • A Pulanski County Circuit Court judge issued a restraining order halting the use of one of Arkansas’ lethal injection drugs, vecuronium bromide, on Wednesday. (The company that makes the drug, McKesson, had sued the state, saying that it had not been warned that the drug would be used to kill people.) That decision has delayed the death of Ledell Lee, also scheduled to be executed today. According to CNN, Lee and Johnson are the only two inmates of the eight who have claimed to be innocent throughout the process.
  • The ruling also put a temporary stop to the executions of Jack Jones and Marcell Williams, who were scheduled to die on April 24, and Kenneth Williams, whose execution is set for the 27. If Arkansas is successful in appealing the ruling, they may still be put to death.
  • Don Davis had already eaten his last meal on Monday night before being granted a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court. His death warrant has since expired, meaning that the state of Arkansas will not be able to execute him this month.
  • Bruce Ward, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was the first inmate scheduled to be executed before being granted a stay of execution on Monday. Ward, convicted of strangling and killing an 18-year-old, has been on death row since 1990.
  • A federal judge issued a stay to Jason McGehee, who had been scheduled to be put to death on April 27, after the Arkansas Parole Board recommended to Governor Asa Hutchinson that McGehee be pardoned.

Arkansas is expected to file an appeal against the McKesson ruling today.

Update, 5:18 PM: The Arkansas Supreme Court sided with the state in a ruling on the McKesson case on Thursday.


The ruling means that the four people affected by the case—Ledell Lee, Jack Jones, Marcell Williams, and Kenneth Williams—can now be executed. Lee’s execution is scheduled to take place on Thursday night. He has maintained his innocence throughout.

Staff writer, The Root.