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  1. ITV Report

US state of Arkansas carries out its first execution in 12 years

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

The US state of Arkansas has carried out its first execution in nearly 12 years.

Ledell Lee, was pronounced dead at 11.56pm local time (05:56 BST) on Thursday, four minutes before his death warrant was due to expire.

The 51-year-old was put on death row for the 1993 murder of his neighbour Debra Reese. He had maintained that he was innocent.

Lee's execution was cleared less than an hour before his death warrant was due to expire. Credit: AP

Lee was among eight death row inmates whose executions were originally scheduled before a lethal injection drug expires on April 30.

One of the men, Jason McGehee, was granted clemency for the death of a teenager in 1996.

Arkansas had planned to execute the men by the end of the month but the plans were thwarted after a judge issued a temporary restraining order stopping the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide.

The Pulaski County Circuit judge's order came after a company said it had sold the muscle relaxant - which is one of three drugs used in the state's lethal injection process - for medical purposes, not capital punishment.

Pharmaceutical company McKesson Corp has said the state obtained the drug under false pretences.

But on Thursday the state's Supreme Court reversed the order blocking the use of vecuronium bromide.

The US Supreme Court later cleared the way for Lee's execution after rejecting a round of last-minute appeals filed by his lawyers.

Top row, from left to right: Bruce Ward, Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams. Botton row, left to right: Stacey Johnson, Ledell Lee, Don Davis, Jack Jones Credit: AP

"The governor knows the right thing was done tonight," said JR Davis, a spokesman for Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, who scheduled the multiple executions.

"Justice was carried out," he added.

Lawyers who represented Lee in his final appeals accused the state of rushing his execution and denying him the opportunity to conduct DNA testing which "could have proven his innocence".

McKesson Corp said it was disappointed with the court's ruling.

"We believe we have done all we can do at this time to recover our product," the company said in a statement.

Protests have been held in Arkansas against the upcoming executions. Credit: AO

Two more inmates are scheduled to die on Monday, and one on April 27.

Another inmate scheduled for execution next week has received a stay.