Arkansas executed its first death row inmate in 12 years late Thursday night after Ledell Lee had exhausted all of his legal appeals.
Lee died at 11:56 p.m. Central time at the Cummins Unit, a prison facility in Arkansas, four minutes before his death warrant expired.
A federal appeals court had already rejected all stay requests from Lee Thursday night, and The Supreme Court ultimately did not intervene to stop his execution.
State officials administered the lethal injection into the inmate at 11:44 p.m. local time after Lee, who asked for holy communion as his last meal, declined to make any final statements.
A reporter for The Associated Press witnessed Lee’s execution and reported the inmate was not visibly uncomfortable while being put to death.
Arkansas had set up eight executions over an 11-day time period before the end of April, when its supply of one lethal injection drug expires. As a result, the first three scheduled executions were abandoned because of court decisions.
Lee was executed for the 1993 murder of his neighbor Debra Reese, who was hit 36 times with a tire tool.
Although, U.S. Supreme Court issued Thursday night a temporary stay to Lee, who maintained his innocence, the court voted 5-4 to deny appeals intended to stop Lee’s execution, while the Arkansas State Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling prohibiting the state’s use of one of the three lethal injection drugs, midazolam.
New Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch cast his first vote on the court with the majority.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated in her dissent that the appeals court “erroneously swept aside” the judge’s ruling that midazolam — “creates a substantial risk of severe pain.”
“I continue to harbor significant doubts about the wisdom of imposing the perverse requirement that inmates offer alternative methods for their own executions,” Sotomayor added.