Ledell Lee has become the first inmate put to death in the state of Arkansas in a dozen years. Less than an hour before his death warrant was set to expire, the United States Supreme Court denied a stay of execution to Lee in a 5–4 vote. The court’s newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, sided with the conservative majority.
Lee has been on death row since 1993, despite evidence that his trial judge was sleeping with the prosecutor on his case, and that his defense attorney was inebriated during his trial. The justices reversed the order of a circuit court judge blocking the use of vecuronium bromide—one of three drugs used in the lethal injection protocol—after McKesson Corp., the company that provided the drug, claimed the state obtained it under false pretenses. McKesson Corp. tried, and failed, to recover the drugs it had supplied the state.
Lee was one of eight men the state planned to execute this month before its supply of midazolam expired, a factor that, “when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random,” Justice Stephen Breyer said in his dissent.