Arkansas and the Death Penalty

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Arkansas’ plan to resume capital punishment after nearly 12 years seemed on its way to being blocked by rulings related to the lethal drugs it wants to use, but in the end arguments over the inmates’ mental health led to them being spared.

As state officials prepare to carry out a double execution Thursday ahead of a drug expiration deadline and despite the setback the U.S. Supreme Court delivered late Monday, lawyers for those condemned men look to be taking a different approach: claiming the prisoners are actually innocent.

One of the inmates set to die, Stacey Johnson, says advanced DNA techniques could show that he didn’t kill Carol Heath, a 25-year-old mother of two, in 1993 at her DeQueen apartment.  Meanwhile, Ledell Lee argued unsuccessfully Tuesday in a Little Rock courtroom that he be given a chance to test blood and hair evidence that could prove he didn’t beat 26-year-old Debra Reese to death during a 1993 robbery in Jacksonville. An appeal is possible.