Ann Kenda

Ann Kenda joined Arkansas Public Media in January 2017 from Sudbury, Massachusetts.  She is a graduate of Syracuse University and previously worked in public radio, commercial radio and newspaper in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  She focuses on health, justice, education and energy as part of the Arkansas Public Media team.  Her stories can be found on the airwaves, ArkansasPublicMedia.org and social media.

With his death warrant set to expire at midnight, inmate Ledell Lee died at 11:56pm, as confirmed by the Corrections Department.  After another day of legal drama, the execution got underway shortly after word came that the U.S. Supreme Court would not take action to prevent the state from putting Lee to death via lethal injection.

Lee claimed that he was innocent in the February 1993 beating death of 26-year-old Debra Reese during a robbery in her home.  Prosecutors said he beat Reese multiple times with a tire iron and had a previous history of brutal assaults on women.  Lee was 51 when he died Thursday night, the first of several planned executions.

The other executions are set for April 24 and April 27.

Update at 11:42pm:  The execution of Ledell Lee is underway, according to the Corrections Department. 

Update at 11:21pm: Signs are pointing to the Ledell Lee execution taking place before midnight, when his death warrant expires. 

Update at 10:30pm: Lee has lost all requests to the 8th Circuit Court.  The U.S. Supreme Court is now the focus. 

From previous reports:

Inmate Ledell Lee could become the first Arkansas prisoner put to death in twelve years as early as tonight.

The state Supreme Court has allowed the use of vecuronium bromide, the second of three drugs to be administered as part of a lethal injection cocktail.  On Wednesday, a judge had blocked the use of the drug.  The state then sought and received a fast reversal from the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Lee has been on death row for the beating death of 26-year-old Debra Reese during a robbery in her home in February 1993 and was called a "super predator" by prosecutors for other alleged attacks on women.

There were a number of signs that the Arkansas executions were headed for a last-minute stay, according to an Amherst College professor who has studied and written extensively on the history of capital punishment in the United States.

“I don’t think it’s a surprising development,” said Sarat, who first spoke with Arkansas Public Media several weeks ago and then agreed to a follow-up interview following news of the stays.

Sarat said the decision may have hinged on the fast pace of the executions, which would have seen seven men put to death via lethal injection over a ten day period. An eighth inmate was granted a reprieve previously.

To the eight men scheduled to be executed over 10 days this month by the state of Arkansas, the question is when. When will they die? On the day and time of the state's choosing — April 17, 20, 24 and 27 — or some later date, dependent on a court-ordered stay of their execution? For others without more than a passing interest in the news, the question might be why, followed by how.

How does the state end the life of an inmate, without pain but without error?

In Arkansas's case, the answer, for better or worse, is lethal injection. 

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