Arkansas executed its first inmate in 12 years on Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the inmate’s request to halt the lethal injection in a late-night ruling.
Ledell Lee, 51, was the first to be put to death out of a group of eight men that Arkansas originally planned to execute within a span of 11 days, before the expiration of one of the drugs the state uses for the lethal injection.
The rapid pacing of the planned executions prompted a flurry of legal challenges and renewed a debate over executions in the United States, with lawyers for the inmates arguing that Arkansas was in an unseemly rush that offended standards of decency.
Courts have halted four of those executions as arguments continue over death-penalty protocols, but the Supreme Court denied the petitions for the group. One of them was a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with the four other conservative justices in denying the motion, while the court’s liberals dissented.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said he took issue with the state trying to use the drugs before their expiration date.