The US state of Arkansas has executed its first death row inmate in 12 years, the first of a group of eight men the authorities are trying to expedite before a drug used in the lethal injection expires.
Ledell Lee, 51, had served more than 20 years on death row for the 1993 beating to death of a woman. The seven other men were due to be put to death over the next 10 days.
If Arkansas gets its way this will be the most people executed in as short a period by any state since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
However courts have halted four of these, including back-to-back executions scheduled for Monday.
Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson set the execution schedule because the state uses a three-drug cocktail involving the sedative midazolan, and Arkansas’s stocks reach the end of their shelf life at the end of April.
Midazolan, a low-cost generic opioid has been used since pentabarbitol was withdrawn from penal use by its European manufacturers, but the replacement has produced a number of incidents where death was prolonged and painful.
Seen from abroad: Cartoonist Delucq – Executions speed up before products expire – “Can my last request be to have a cigarette?” “Ah no, we’ve got some out-of-date yogurts to finish”.