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Arkansas Supreme Court Issues Stay Of Execution For Stacey Johnson

LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) — The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions set for Thursday (April 20), reported THV11.

The court said the condemned inmate should have a chance at proving his innocence with further DNA testing.

Stacey Johnson claims that advanced DNA techniques could show that he didn’t kill Carol Heath, a 25-year-old mother of two, in 1993 at her southwest Arkansas apartment.

In a 4-3 ruling Wednesday afternoon, the state’s highest court issued a stay for Johnson and ordered a new hearing in lower court for Johnson to make his claims.

Johnson was set for execution Thursday night along with inmate Ledell Lee, who is also seeking a stay in a separate case.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released the following 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.”

Rutledge filed a response to inmate Johnson’s request at the 8th Circuit on Wednesday night (April 19).

Governor Asa Hutchinson issued this statement regarding the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision to stay Johnson’s execution:

“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.”