In a one page order, the state Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution for Stacey Eugene Johnson. The court remanded his case to circuit court for a hearing on his post-conviction DNA testing. Justices Karen Baker, Shawn Womack and Rhonda Wood dissented in the 4-3 decisions, just as they did in the state high court’s previous two stays.
In a dissent, Wood wrote:
Today, this court takes the extraordinary step of breaking from precedent and ignoring the General Assembly’s statutory requirements for new scientific testing and stays this execution. With no explanation or instruction, this matter has been remanded to the trial court for another hearing. Today, our court gives uncertainty to any case ever truly being final in the Arkansas Supreme Court. Accordingly, I dissent.
The Innocence Project had asked the court for the stay. The Innocence Project has also asked the court to stay the execution of Ledell Lee, which is scheduled for tomorrow, to allow for new DNA testing. The court has not yet ruled on the Lee motion.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement:
“The Arkansas Supreme Court in 2004 unanimously rejected an identical argument brought by Inmate Stacey Johnson, but today, by a vote of four to three, the Court has without legal explanation blocked the execution of an individual sentenced by two different juries. I know that this is disappointing and difficult for Carol Heath’s family and her two children who were home at the time of the murder. I am evaluating options on how to proceed to ensure that justice is carried out.”
Governor Hutchinson also issued a statement:
“I am both surprised and disappointed at the last minute stay by the Arkansas Supreme Court. When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries’ sentences to be carried out since each case had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each. The minority opinion was clear in its dissent, but I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court’s review. I will continue to work with the attorney general as we evaluate our next steps.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) is going nuts on Twitter. He tweeted out Chief Justice John Dan Kemp’s cell phone number and said he was working to make sure the state didn’t continue its $16 million in contracts with McKesson, the drug manufacturer who asked for and received a temporary restraining order to keep a drug it provided the state from being used in executions.
That’ll show ’em!
McKesson reported $160.8 billion in revenue last year.