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States to try new ways of executing prisoners. Their latest idea? Opioids.

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The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation’s opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug’s powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.
As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country’s first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.
States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.
The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this s…

Arkansas Supreme Court issues stay for death row inmate

Little Rock, Arkansas, April 14, 2017
Little Rock, Arkansas, April 14, 2017
The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted 1 of 2 executions set for Thursday, saying the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing.

Stacey Johnson claims that advanced DNA techniques could show that he didn't kill Carol Heath, a 25-year-old mother of 2, in 1993 at her southwest Arkansas apartment.

In a 4-3 ruling late 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.

The Innocence Project previously asked the state's circuit court to grant Johnson new DNA testing, CBS affiliate KTVH reports.

In a press release, the group said newer DNA testing has "never been performed" in his case that could potentially prove his innocence.

The evidence in the case shows Heath was stabbed in the throat and raped. Johnson has maintained his innocence throughout his entire time in prison.

KTVH reports that anti-death penalty protesters have camped out in front of the governor's mansion in Little Rock in the weeks leading to the decision.

Source: CBS News, April 20, 2017

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