Episode 2 Life and Death Row


Episode 2

DNA evidence might prove the innocence of one man. State prosecutors are determined to ensure justice for victims of a man they say is a serial rapist and murderer.


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Transcript


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This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find disturbing.

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-AUTOMATED VOICE ON PHONE:

-This is a free call from...

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-ON PHONE:

-Stacey Johnson.

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...an inmate at...Varner Unit.

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She was laid out on the bed,

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the TV was turned all the way up to cover the sound of her screams.

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It's not a race against anything, my goodness, it's been 25 years.

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It's pretty much like a slaughter line,

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and, and it's... It's just inhumane.

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It's...

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The rush to use this drug is bad for the dignity that they're

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trying to do eight in ten days,

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but it's also a terrible idea because it's a terrible drug.

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Midazolam has a history of being involved in botched executions.

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A lot of the focus has been on the drugs being used,

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will they cause cruel and unusual punishment?

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That awaits to be seen.

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If it lasts for an hour or whatever,

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I really just really truly don't care.

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Tonight, the families of the victims are on the Governor's mind.

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The justice they were hoping to get, they will once again not.

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The Department of Corrections' attention now shifts to the

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executions that are scheduled for Thursday.

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PHONE RINGS

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What's coming up right here is, er, Varner Unit and Varner Supermax.

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These buildings right here, this is where, um, Stacey's been housed.

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Stacey's my husband, er, he's on death row.

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He's scheduled to be executed on April 20th.

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Does anybody need a coffee here?

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Four days, four days.

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Four days.

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And they said even though it was a short time,

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it's still probably about the longest four days of our lives.

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You know, of course, first my biggest fear

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is him getting executed.

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But what would be my...

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..my second fear is, you know, him being executed

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but still turns out to be innocent.

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And that the state of Arkansas executed an innocent man

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that's been proclaiming his innocence since day one.

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Stacey Johnson has been on death row for 23 years now.

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He's convicted for violently killing Carol Heath in 1993 in De Queen.

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He beat, strangled and slit Heath's throat

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while two children in the house hid.

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After the long legal battle,

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the victim's family just wants Johnson to admit his crimes.

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I saw him kill my mother.

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I believe that he is the one

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that took the knife to my mother's throat.

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I believe that he is the one who strangled my mother.

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I believe with all my heart he's the one that broke in

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and started beating my mother.

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That's, um, my mom and I when I was about four

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when she was pregnant with my brother.

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This is the picture that was taken two weeks before she was killed.

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And she's very young.

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She was 25 years old.

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Her and I used to dance a lot to country music

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and whatever came on the radio.

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Um, the day of my birthday she called into the radio station

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and requested Billy Ray Cyrus, Achy Breaky Heart

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and we danced to it, um, the correct way.

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That's one of my best memories with my mom, um...

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She was actually murdered that night, the night of my birthday.

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Stacey Johnson came over.

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He had been acquainted with my mom...

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..and something was going on at the door.

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My mom got up and I got up because I was thirsty for water

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and I just couldn't believe what I saw.

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He came in and he started beating my mom up.

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And my mom was fighting back really hard.

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She was screaming, "Get off of me!"

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She was maybe 5'1 and she weighed 109 pounds.

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And I was just standing there in the hallway.

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At six I didn't understand.

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I had a two-year-old brother...

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..and I had to make sure he was hid and quiet.

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This is going to be it here.

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My sister said she hid me in a closet, and I don't remember that.

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I just, uh, the only memory that comes to mind in that house

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is seeing my mother on the floor.

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I saw him take something to her throat.

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Something sharp.

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There was so much blood.

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There was just so much blood, all over the place.

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The police report said there was, uh,

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there was two children's footprints in the blood.

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I was two when it happened, and she's never really been in my life.

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There isn't really a place that I ever...

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..I ever get the feeling of her being with me other than going

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and visiting her grave, and I guess I could speak to her there.

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I don't get a reply, but it makes me feel better to go and I get to share

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my feelings with her, even though I'll never know how she feels back.

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Stacey Johnson has always insisted that he was innocent.

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Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable

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and when you have a child witness, uh, that's a major issue.

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That was part of the case.

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The child psychologist who spoke to the child during the course

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of this, at the time Ashley Heath was I think,

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like, five or six years old.

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And she done testing with Ashley Heath,

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and she stated plain and simple that she don't believe that the

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child witnessed the murder that actually took place.

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That she saw a traumatic...

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You know, her mom dead,

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which would be traumatic for any child

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or anyone in that particular point to see.

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However, she stated herself that she don't believe that she

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witnessed a murder.

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That's why I say there is lot of things in this case that was

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done, that needs to be solved.

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There are other issues, too, that have some significant problems as well.

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There's the DNA issue.

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The DNA was tested, and this...

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We're talking about back in the '90s,

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when DNA was nowhere near as precise as it is now.

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And we asked for retesting and were explicitly denied,

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uh, by, by the courts.

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So, when you have a situation where you have a serious

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question of the competency of the child who testified against him,

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when DNA testing is denied, what do they have to hide?

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What is the problem?

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And so, I would ask that you recommend to the Governor,

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uh, that he grant clemency.

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Like I said, the DNA evidence needs to be tested.

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All I'm asking for from all of you is just the opportunity

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and the chance, just to get my case back in court to where

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I can have the chance to have my case heard by someone who

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will give me a fair, impartial trial. That's all I want.

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OK, all right.

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With that, uh, this, uh, interview will conclude.

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Thank you very much.

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There was some DNA that was associated with him, uh, found.

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And so, we're trying to get the courts to retest it, uh,

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and hopefully the testing will, uh, exonerate him.

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We'll have to see.

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You ever met a lawyer who was on time?

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I had to buy my daughter a new trampoline for her birthday.

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The wind blew it off, the one that we had.

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It's a funny feeling about the... the death penalty.

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Do I want to go out and really watch this man be put to death? No.

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You're a prosecutor, this is your job.

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That's just the necessary evil.

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This is the 180-page motion they filed on Thursday...

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..that I had to respond to by Friday,

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that they turned round and filed a response on Friday night.

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This was for new DNA testing, and, uh, it's...

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He's had DNA testing twice.

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I mean, how many times do you want to have it tested?

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We truly believe it's nothing but a stall tactic to stop the execution.

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Uh, the evidence in this case, we believe is overwhelming,

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and has been since day one.

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The hair that was found with the body of Carol Heath, that was

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an African-American hair, was tested and the DNA from that hair compared

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to the DNA sample taken straight from Stacey Johnson matched.

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The problem with that in terms of using it as evidence is

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he was known to have been a social guest.

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The fact that Stacey Johnson's DNA is somewhere in the Heath house

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doesn't necessarily prove a whole lot

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because he's known to have been there.

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I mean there was some Caucasian hairs found.

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-INTERVIEWER:

-On the body, or...

-On the body, yeah.

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Why were they not tested?

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We don't know.

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But they should be.

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A few miles from the murder scene,

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the police found the victim's purse and a green shirt.

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On that shirt was blood,

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and the DNA testing on it came back to be Carol Heath's.

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The prosecutor claimed it was Stacey Johnson's shirt

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and Stacey Johnson says it wasn't his shirt.

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It was in that shirt that, supposedly, a cigarette butt was found.

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On that cigarette butt was a saliva that was tested,

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um, and it was tested to be, uh...

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..one out of every 28 million

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African-Americans that that DNA would be his DNA.

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The problem with that is the submission sheets are not as

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precise on that, there was another cigarette butt that was found

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in the home and it appears to us that the two may have been confused.

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And if he had smoked a cigarette there,

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that doesn't prove anything, proving something that's not in

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dispute, which was that he had been a social guest at the residence.

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He has no evidence to prove he's innocent.

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I don't know of any piece of evidence or any testimony

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he's ever asserted, other than the changing testimony of his client,

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that his client is innocent.

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The assailant apparently bit her on the breast,

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er, and if you're biting someone you're going to leave saliva.

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The DNA testing was done at that time

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and no profile of any person was obtained.

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Now, there is much more precise testing available now,

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more DNA testing needs to be done.

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This is something we had sought previously in both state

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and federal courts and have been turned down.

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This evidence has the chance of exonerating Stacey Johnson.

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So, we're asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to get

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Stacey Johnson's, uh, execution stayed

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so we can pursue subsequent DNA testing.

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-INTERVIEWER:

-What are the chances that Stacey's lawyer

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will be able to get this motion passed for DNA testing?

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I honestly think zero.

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I think that if they've done that kind of a crime to deserve the death penalty,

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they need to go ahead and be put to death in a mannerly way,

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and make sure that they are very guilty of what they've done.

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-If you know for a fact that they killed somebody, yes...

-That's what I was going to say.

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-...but if it's, uh, like shaky evidence then maybe...maybe...

-Then no.

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..maybe then, you still get convicted.

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I don't think they should kill the person.

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The American court system is a just system.

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I imagine that there has been someone executed that was innocent.

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But I would say that there... Those are far and few between.

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Where are we now, Jeff?

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In my conference room.

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So, what happens in here?

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Well, I try to get some work done in here.

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So, I see people, uh, you know, like a lot of lawyers,

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you try to impress your clients a little bit.

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So, I've hung up some of the awards and things that I've achieved

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over the years in the office, which I think it probably...

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All the other stuff I have here probably sort of detracts

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from the impact of what's on the wall.

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This one was, uh, I was involved in the so-called

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West Memphis Three case which was a very, uh, controversial case.

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A number of movies have been made about it.

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And I was fortunate enough to be asked to be part of the defence team

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for Jessie Misskelley, and that's Jessie here, and this is me there.

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In 1993, three little boys, about eight years old, didn't come home

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after dark and the next day their bodies were found in this

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sort of low lying creek-like area.

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And they were nude,

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and they were tied together, and they had, they'd been killed.

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There was obviously a great, uh, desire to find the people who....

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..who allegedly did it

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and a lot of pressure on the West Memphis Arkansas Police Department.

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So, they settled on several teenagers,

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Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley,

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and decided that they were suspects.

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Echols in particular liked to wear black

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and listened to music that was, shall we say, not mainstream.

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So, they decided that, well, maybe the bodies had evidence of

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Satanic rituals on them and a lot of bogus pseudo-evidence was

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introduced against them, and they ended up being convicted.

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Echols was sentenced to death, the other two were sentenced to life.

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A number of people all over the country that had become appalled by

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uh, what passed for justice in, uh, in north-east Arkansas at the time.

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And over the course of time they were able to bankroll a

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systematic attack on the convictions that I was honoured to be a part of.

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In 2011, which is when this picture was taken,

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they walked out of the courthouse free.

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All right, we're going to sing that together.

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This Little Light Of Mine, y'all ready?

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# This little light of mine

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# Oh, I'm gonna let it shine

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-CROWD JOINS IN:

-# Oh, this little light of mine

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# I'm gonna let it shine

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# This little light of mine

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# I'm gonna let it shine

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# Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. #

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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-Good afternoon.

-CROWD:

-Good afternoon.

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We're here today to make a clear call to Governor Hutchinson

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to stop the executions.

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All our voices are needed to get this message very clearly heard.

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Now I introduce Damien Echols.

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CHEERING

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You know for, uh, 18 years and 76 days,

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that's how long I was trapped in hell here.

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The local politicians tried to execute me.

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Even when DNA testing came out that excluded me

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and the other two men that they had convicted from the scene of the crime,

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they still kept trying to kill me.

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After DNA testing came out, I sat on death row for two more years

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while they tried to figure out how they could kill me

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and not have to admit they had made a mistake.

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These people would have murdered an innocent person without

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a second thought if it meant that they could

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further their political careers or keep their jobs.

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You know that's the level of...

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..of corruption that's inherent within the system.

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They may very well win this battle, you know

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we're all here today to try to keep the state from killing people.

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They may go through with it despite our best efforts,

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despite everyone here doing everything they can.

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They may still very well do it.

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I just want to say that I salute you,

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I stand in solidarity with you, thank you so much.

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And...

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APPLAUSE

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Thank you.

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Let me, uh, just real quick.

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One of the men who is responsible for saving my life, I just

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wanted to say a couple of words, because this is someone who kept me

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from being killed, this is someone who stepped up to the plate when

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I was where these guys are now, and uh, did everything he could for me.

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So, my brother, this is my brother, Johnny Depp.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Oh, my God!

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What?!

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I'm proud to be here and I'm proud to stand in absolute solidarity,

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and absolute support for my dear brother, Damien,

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who, uh, who at one time as you all know was, uh,

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sacrificed here into unbearable purgatory.

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Whether you believe in the death penalty or not, there's a wrong

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thing to do and there's a right thing to do, the right thing has been done.

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Cheers. Thanks for having me.

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CHEERING

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As the legal limbo continues, the Department of Corrections is moving forward planning for two executions.

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Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee.

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After 21 years on death row, Ledell Lee maintains his innocence.

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In February of 1993, 27-year-old Lee robbed

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and strangled 26-year-old Debra Reese in her Jacksonville Home.

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He was sentenced to death two years later.

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Prosecutors say Lee committed violent crimes against five women,

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all in Jacksonville.

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His victims' ages ranged from 17 to 70.

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As a prosecutor, there's only a handful of cases in a long career

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that you even consider the death penalty on.

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And in my 27 years of prosecuting, um, this is the one case that I've

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received the death penalty on, and I've prosecuted many, many murders.

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I think there are some offences that you can commit, some acts

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so heinous that you can't come back from that.

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Ledell Lee lost his right to live among us

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in a free society, and he...

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..he deserves the punishment he receives.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

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Ledell Lee is not an ordinary killer.

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Ledell Lee is a super predator.

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A super predator that doesn't kill to eat,

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he kills for fun, he kills for thrill, he kills for the social...

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..psycho-social depravity of it.

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Let me take you to February 9th of 1993.

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The Sunnydale neighbourhood of Jacksonville.

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26-year-old Debra Reese, she'd been married about six months.

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She lived at 212 Cherry,

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with her husband, Billy, who was a long-distance truck driver,

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and her seven-year-old son from a previous relationship.

0:25:310:25:33

Her son, who's here today, who the last time I saw

0:25:330:25:35

wasn't any taller than this podium.

0:25:350:25:37

Her husband, Lee, was in his truck about 10am or so,

0:25:380:25:42

and Debra didn't know it yet but Debra at that point had been chosen.

0:25:420:25:46

Cos she was being watched.

0:25:460:25:48

There's a knock on the door.

0:25:500:25:52

Ledell Lee forces his way into the house.

0:25:550:25:57

She was beaten so badly that

0:25:590:26:00

she was struck in the head alone over 20 times,

0:26:000:26:03

and on the back and the front of her head, there are gaping, separate,

0:26:030:26:07

20 wounds delivered with a tyre thumper.

0:26:070:26:12

And when the police were called she was laid out on the bed.

0:26:120:26:16

The TV was turned all the way up...

0:26:170:26:21

..to cover the sound of her screams.

0:26:230:26:25

The modus operandi of the Debra Reese crime was

0:26:270:26:32

so similar to other Sunnydale crimes that the Jacksonville Police

0:26:320:26:36

reopened several rape and murder cases.

0:26:360:26:38

The blood that was taken during the course of the Debra Reese investigation in 1993

0:26:380:26:43

was sent to the Arkansas Crime Lab

0:26:430:26:46

and the Christine Lewis, Jennifer Perkins, Lilly Dodd and Avis Smith cases were all solved.

0:26:460:26:52

It's Ledell Lee's calling card.

0:26:520:26:54

He's DNA.

0:26:540:26:56

And he's a hunter, that's why I brought you this map.

0:26:570:27:00

So Ledell Lee's story starts back in 1989 in the Sunnydale neighbourhood.

0:27:020:27:07

There started to be a series of very serious, um,

0:27:070:27:10

rapes and murders in that area.

0:27:100:27:12

The first point is the case where a young woman was abducted from this,

0:27:120:27:17

uh, number one house.

0:27:170:27:20

Number two, is the rent house where that young lady's body was found,

0:27:200:27:24

and she actually had a shoe string tied around her neck.

0:27:240:27:27

Number three was the 1990 teenager that was raped and beaten.

0:27:270:27:33

Number four location, the 50-year-old victim was abducted just between

0:27:330:27:37

the tracks and the school, was drug down this alley and was raped.

0:27:370:27:42

Number five, um, is the residence of the 70-year-old woman, um,

0:27:420:27:47

who he knocked on her door, strangled her, raped her

0:27:470:27:50

and beat her so badly that she was paralysed.

0:27:500:27:53

1993, of course, the Debra Reese case.

0:27:530:27:57

That's number six here.

0:27:570:27:58

Number seven, is where Ledell Lee's mother lived

0:27:580:28:01

and number eight is where Ledell Lee lived.

0:28:010:28:04

He didn't have a vehicle,

0:28:040:28:06

so he was known to walk back and forth between these two.

0:28:060:28:09

But this map shows Mr Lee's hunting grounds.

0:28:100:28:15

He was...he was a predator and he prayed on the people of

0:28:150:28:18

the Sunnydale neighbourhood of Jacksonville.

0:28:180:28:21

My mother was everything to me.

0:28:270:28:29

My family has lived in the shadow of this event our entire lives.

0:28:380:28:44

And I'm asking you and begging you

0:28:460:28:48

to please let us have some closure, let this end.

0:28:480:28:52

Let us step out from the shadow.

0:28:520:28:54

Deny his clemency pleas.

0:28:560:28:58

The case before you is the worst that I have experienced.

0:29:030:29:05

The horror endured by the Reese family, the horror endured

0:29:050:29:09

by Jennifer Perkins, Avis Smith, Lilly Dodd, Christine Lewis and their families

0:29:090:29:15

can only be fairly met by the condemnation of Mr Lee to death.

0:29:150:29:22

You do not carry out, uh, the death penalty in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

0:30:020:30:08

The Attorney General will advise that, uh, those eight individuals have exhausted

0:30:080:30:13

their appeals, they've made all the requirements of due process

0:30:130:30:16

and fairness, and that they're ready to have their sentence carried out.

0:30:160:30:20

And so, because I received those eight names I set them.

0:30:200:30:22

Most importantly, though, you have to look at the victims that are

0:30:250:30:29

so often forgotten, uh, that they have gone on for decades

0:30:290:30:33

without the penalty of the jury being carried out.

0:30:330:30:35

So many people have told me that we're alike, um...

0:30:530:30:57

If I have the same hair colour as my mom they call me Carol.

0:30:580:31:01

That's why my hair's hot red or pink or whatever it is right now

0:31:040:31:07

cos I didn't feel like looking like her.

0:31:070:31:11

INTERVIEWER: Why don't you want to look like your mum?

0:31:120:31:15

I look in the mirror and see a ghost.

0:31:160:31:19

I don't... I don't want to be a ghost.

0:31:220:31:24

I have terrors where Stacey Johnson is just chasing me and chasing me,

0:31:300:31:36

and I wake up screaming and I...

0:31:360:31:39

I just... I'm scared, and I want to know he's dead.

0:31:400:31:46

I did talk to one place in regards to your cremation.

0:32:300:32:33

uh, we're looking at like 1,157.

0:32:330:32:37

-STACEY ON PHONE:

-Oh, man.

0:32:370:32:38

But the thing is, they want me to pay that up front.

0:32:400:32:43

I mean, I would be able to do that but that would kind of wipe me out.

0:32:440:32:51

OK.

0:33:090:33:10

-She's right here.

-I'm right here.

0:33:140:33:16

You're talking to me at the same time.

0:33:160:33:18

Uh, a little bit better.

0:33:220:33:24

A little, you know still stressed a little bit,

0:33:240:33:26

a little worried still but a little bit better.

0:33:260:33:29

Most definitely better than yesterday.

0:33:290:33:31

Yeah, OK.

0:33:590:34:00

Yeah. Somewhat.

0:34:240:34:25

Well, I believe I think I have an idea now.

0:34:310:34:33

Next, the son of the victim.

0:35:240:35:26

My name is Jonathan Erickson, uh...

0:35:320:35:34

It's been 23 years, 11 months and 23 days.

0:35:340:35:38

I go every day and I add another day to the calendar.

0:35:380:35:41

As far as I see it,

0:35:410:35:43

since this has happened there hasn't really been any justice served.

0:35:430:35:47

I don't understand why this needs to take so long, the evidence

0:35:480:35:52

was laid before the courts, the courts and the juries made

0:35:520:35:55

their decision, the punishment was death and I think it needs to go...

0:35:550:35:59

..go as planned.

0:35:590:36:00

Thank you very much.

0:36:000:36:02

These, ladies and gentlemen, are Stacey Johnson's

0:36:060:36:10

disciplinaries in the prison.

0:36:100:36:12

158 of them.

0:36:130:36:16

On 12-11-2016, Stacey Johnson attempted to stab

0:36:180:36:23

a Correctional Officer with a shank as that officer

0:36:230:36:27

slid his food tray through the slot in his door, and he told

0:36:270:36:32

the officer he would "F him up." He wasn't as polite as I am today.

0:36:320:36:37

On 11-25-2016, Stacey Johnson yelled out, quote,

0:36:370:36:43

"We need to put a knife in Officer Wells. I'm sick of her.

0:36:430:36:48

"I can choke the shit out of her.

0:36:480:36:51

"That bitch needs to be dead."

0:36:510:36:54

On 9-17-2016, Stacey Johnson crudely

0:36:540:37:00

and vulgarly talked to the same Officer Wells and told her that

0:37:000:37:05

if he wasn't behind this door, "I would cut off your F-ing neck".

0:37:050:37:10

Then again, he wasn't as polite as I am here today.

0:37:110:37:14

Stacey's no angel coming from where he's come from

0:38:150:38:19

and being out there in the street, you know.

0:38:190:38:22

He's done some things he's not proud of, but, you know, he's done

0:38:220:38:26

a lot in his life, but he's said that this was just not...not the one he's done.

0:38:260:38:31

Looking at the evidence and reading through his case

0:38:340:38:37

and just knowing him as a person, and, you know, what he's told me

0:38:370:38:40

about his past, you know, it's just something personally that

0:38:400:38:44

I feel inside of my gut that he didn't do it.

0:38:440:38:46

God forbid he doesn't get this clemency or a stay and he has to be executed, um...

0:38:510:38:59

It is my greatest hope

0:39:000:39:02

and wish that the drugs actually do work the way they're supposed to.

0:39:020:39:05

I don't want him to suffer at all.

0:39:050:39:07

I don't want him to suffer.

0:39:070:39:09

If he's going to die, I don't want him to suffer.

0:39:090:39:12

The IV team will first administer two syringes containing midazolam,

0:40:140:40:18

a sedative that is supposed to make the inmate unconscious.

0:40:180:40:22

Once that is determined, the second drug will be administered -

0:40:220:40:26

vecuronium bromide - a paralytic.

0:40:260:40:28

Then comes the third and final drug, two syringes

0:40:280:40:32

of potassium chloride, ultimately causing the inmate's heart to stop.

0:40:320:40:36

It is generally said that the two latter drugs would cause torture

0:40:360:40:42

unless the inmate is rendered totally unconscious by drug number one.

0:40:420:40:49

The problem is midazolam has a history of not working and has been

0:40:490:40:53

the apparent cause of several botched executions around the country.

0:40:530:41:00

It is contrary to what we would expect in a civilised society.

0:41:000:41:05

Does your car work every time you get into it?

0:41:080:41:10

Yeah, there you go. How many times do you get into that and how many years do you keep your car?

0:41:110:41:15

There are going to be times your car's not going to start,

0:41:150:41:18

there are going to be times that, uh, you just say you're deer hunting

0:41:180:41:21

and your gun does not go off.

0:41:210:41:24

Can I say 100% that every one of these executions are going to go as planned?

0:41:240:41:29

No. Things happen.

0:41:290:41:31

The world's not perfect.

0:41:310:41:34

He was moved from the Varner Supermax

0:41:490:41:51

to the Cummins Unit where the actual death chamber is.

0:41:510:41:55

Today was the very last day that we could see him

0:41:580:42:02

before the scheduled execution tomorrow, God forbid it happens.

0:42:020:42:07

Um, so...

0:42:070:42:08

We don't know if we're going to see him alive again.

0:42:110:42:14

There was a lot of hugging and tears and crying.

0:42:170:42:20

He thanked me for the wonderful years that we had together.

0:42:210:42:24

Um...

0:42:280:42:30

I'm sorry.

0:42:340:42:35

And that we was praying that, uh...

0:42:450:42:47

..we'd get the outcome that we wanted

0:42:500:42:51

as far as the Supreme Court and the DNA.

0:42:510:42:54

We're praying that the Arkansas Supreme Court would actually

0:42:550:42:59

give us that stay in order to have the DNA retested.

0:42:590:43:05

Um...

0:43:060:43:08

I have to cut this...

0:43:080:43:10

-I'm going to have to cut this, this is... Yeah.

-OK.

0:43:100:43:12

Hello.

0:43:140:43:15

Yes.

0:43:170:43:18

Oh, boy!

0:43:260:43:28

I'm sorry, my glasses. These are happy tears now.

0:43:320:43:35

Oh.

0:43:360:43:37

These are happy tears.

0:43:390:43:40

Jeff just called me, the Arkansas Supreme Court gave him the stay on the DNA.

0:43:420:43:46

Oh, Judy, Judy, Judy, did you really?

0:43:460:43:48

We got a stay!

0:43:480:43:50

OK. Thank you, thank you.

0:43:510:43:54

-I can't wait to tell him this.

-Um, I know.

-I can't wait to tell him this.

0:43:550:44:00

-RECORDING ON PHONE:

-An inmate at Cummins Unit. You may start the conversation now.

0:44:000:44:05

-Hello.

-Hey.

-Hello.

-Hello.

0:44:050:44:09

-Hello.

-Hello.

0:44:090:44:10

Yes, are you happy too?

0:44:130:44:15

-You got the news?

-You got finally got the news?

0:44:150:44:17

Oh, wow.

0:44:200:44:22

RUSTLING

0:44:350:44:36

Are you eating?

0:44:370:44:39

Yes.

0:44:400:44:41

OK.

0:44:570:44:59

There's a church around every corner.

0:45:070:45:09

Thank God for that. That's what America is missing, if we had more God in our lives,

0:45:090:45:14

we wouldn't have to worry about putting people to death.

0:45:140:45:17

Killing people is a no-no, and it's perfectly all right with God

0:45:200:45:25

if we put them to death like he says in the good book.

0:45:250:45:28

The Bible says, "Thou shall not kill".

0:45:290:45:31

So, it depends on, I guess, what Testament you're going with,

0:45:310:45:35

the Old Testament or the New Testament,

0:45:350:45:37

but either way is wrong, either way.

0:45:370:45:39

Killing somebody for killing somebody, that's...

0:45:390:45:42

That's not Christian.

0:45:420:45:44

My personal opinion about the death penalty

0:45:450:45:47

comes from my faith in Christ.

0:45:470:45:49

I think that it's something that Jesus wouldn't support, you know.

0:45:490:45:52

He's going to try and reach each and every one of us until the end.

0:45:520:45:57

The problem I find is with the idea that we would

0:45:570:46:00

cut off someone's time to know Jesus and be saved.

0:46:000:46:03

I believe that

0:46:090:46:11

regardless of what someone's done,

0:46:110:46:13

we're all better than the worst thing we've ever done.

0:46:130:46:16

And in Ledell's case, even if the state believes he's guilty,

0:46:160:46:20

you shouldn't kill him regardless.

0:46:200:46:22

It's not saying I'm agreeing that he's guilty

0:46:220:46:25

because he's always denied that he's guilty, but as his attorney,

0:46:250:46:30

the number one goal is to make sure he's not executed, because if he's

0:46:300:46:33

not executed, you've got a lot more time to try and prove his innocence.

0:46:330:46:38

All right, inmate Ledell Lee is going to wave his appearance here today.

0:46:410:46:46

So, uh, Mr Short you may proceed.

0:46:460:46:49

-All right. Thank you very much.

-You bet.

0:46:490:46:51

Erm, you now first I want to speak to the fact that he is absent.

0:46:510:46:55

I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on it.

0:46:550:46:57

I was appointed seven months ago.

0:46:570:47:00

At no time during those seven months was it

0:47:000:47:03

indicated that he would be on the next execution schedule.

0:47:030:47:07

Uh, and ultimately it was discovered that he

0:47:070:47:12

was on the execution schedule, uh, by the news.

0:47:120:47:16

Um, I was not provided a letter,

0:47:160:47:18

not provided an e-mail, a fax, any notification,

0:47:180:47:23

but I was told on February 27th

0:47:230:47:26

as everyone was, that he was set to be executed.

0:47:260:47:30

The following day I was provided notification that I had

0:47:300:47:33

until March 11th to draft him a clemency petition, OK?

0:47:330:47:37

So, we're talking approximately ten days.

0:47:370:47:40

Now, most prosecutors would find that was insufficient time to

0:47:410:47:44

prepare to have any witnesses available,

0:47:440:47:47

to have any meaningful response.

0:47:470:47:50

But somehow the man's life is at stake

0:47:500:47:52

and ten days to prepare is due process, is fairness.

0:47:520:47:58

And Ledell Lee's far from ignorant, in fact he is very intelligent,

0:47:590:48:04

and he's been going...

0:48:040:48:05

..he's been through the legal process enough to know

0:48:050:48:08

what strikes him as fair and what strikes him as not fair.

0:48:080:48:10

And there's nothing about having ten days

0:48:100:48:13

to plead for a man's life that's fair.

0:48:130:48:16

At his trial, Ledell had a lot of problems believing

0:48:180:48:21

that his attorneys had his best interest at heart.

0:48:210:48:24

One of Ledell's attorneys told him essentially, "You should take

0:48:260:48:30

"a plea deal of life in prison," implying that he's guilty.

0:48:300:48:35

And I think Ledell took exception, as anyone would in his position,

0:48:360:48:40

and wanted a new attorney put on his case.

0:48:400:48:43

The court not only disagreed that a new attorney should be put on his case,

0:48:430:48:48

his trial judge actively interfered with getting him a new attorney.

0:48:480:48:53

Based on those issues

0:48:540:48:56

and the fact that he stands by his innocence, I'm...

0:48:560:48:59

..I'm going to ask that it be commuted to a life sentence.

0:48:590:49:01

Jesus never said, "I'm going to stop trying to save you,"

0:49:030:49:07

and he never said, "This is the endgame."

0:49:070:49:10

I mean, he saved another man on the cross.

0:49:100:49:13

Today is Thursday. It's your school day forecast,

0:49:180:49:21

mostly clear right now,

0:49:210:49:23

and 64 degrees at the moment, but you know what?

0:49:230:49:25

It's going to be warming up. In fact, we'll get into those

0:49:250:49:27

80s this afternoon, mid 80s. It's going to be a warm one.

0:49:270:49:30

The first execution scheduled to be at 7 o'clock tonight.

0:49:300:49:33

As of this morning, no individual stay

0:49:330:49:35

has been granted for Ledell Lee.

0:49:350:49:38

Meanwhile, last night the Arkansas Supreme Court granted

0:49:380:49:40

a stay of execution for Stacey Johnson.

0:49:400:49:42

The additional testing in this case could prove his innocence.

0:49:420:49:45

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said

0:49:450:49:47

she is going to appeal this to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

0:49:470:49:50

And we are firing on all cylinders at the Attorney General's office

0:49:500:49:53

and will continue to do so to ensure that these families,

0:49:530:49:56

these victims...justice again is carried out.

0:49:560:49:59

-RECORDING:

-Call from an inmate at Cummins Unit.

0:50:030:50:06

This call is subject to recording and monitoring.

0:50:060:50:09

You may start the conversation now.

0:50:090:50:11

Hello.

0:50:110:50:12

Oh, man.

0:50:120:50:13

What's wrong?

0:50:130:50:14

Uh, right now the Attorney General has filed appeals with

0:50:360:50:42

the Supreme Court on your stay, uh...

0:50:420:50:45

Jeff is responding back.

0:50:450:50:47

Uh, we are hoping that they'll come back with

0:50:490:50:51

the same decision that they gave you yesterday.

0:50:510:50:54

Hey, it's Ashley.

0:51:080:51:09

Do we head to the prison like normal?

0:51:090:51:12

OK, I'm just making sure.

0:51:130:51:15

I'll see you at 4.30.

0:51:150:51:18

Bye.

0:51:180:51:19

We are carrying on like it is a normal day,

0:51:200:51:25

and he's going to get executed.

0:51:250:51:29

We have up until midnight to fight for it.

0:51:290:51:32

He's absolutely 100% guilty.

0:51:330:51:36

There's not a doubt in my mind.

0:51:370:51:39

I know what I saw.

0:51:400:51:42

-SAT-NAV:

-In .4 miles, turn left...

0:52:050:52:08

Where the hell are we?

0:52:090:52:11

I don't know.

0:52:120:52:13

It's not going to be on this road.

0:52:130:52:15

I don't have any signal.

0:52:150:52:16

I don't either.

0:52:170:52:18

You don't have any signal here.

0:52:180:52:20

Don't yell. You're not helping us find our way out of here.

0:52:200:52:24

Mom, I need my anxiety medicine, please.

0:52:280:52:30

Where is it?

0:52:300:52:31

In Cindy's purse.

0:52:310:52:33

Yeah, Cindy's purse.

0:52:330:52:35

OK, I think I've figured out what we did.

0:52:440:52:46

I think we turned right when we should have turned left,

0:52:460:52:49

so we were going in the opposite direction.

0:52:490:52:51

We might be going the wrong way.

0:52:510:52:53

Maybe we needed to go back the other way.

0:52:530:52:55

SHE CRIES

0:52:590:53:01

Damn it, Melissa is already there!

0:53:070:53:09

Ashley, it's OK.

0:53:090:53:11

It doesn't matter if she gets there before you do or not. It's not about...

0:53:110:53:15

Well, obviously, she can follow directions.

0:53:150:53:18

-We followed directions, Ashley.

-Ashley Elizabeth.

0:53:180:53:20

I'm not going to get to where I need to be.

0:53:200:53:22

Ashley, calm down.

0:53:220:53:23

-Before I...

-Do I need to take you back home?

0:53:230:53:26

This is a...

0:53:260:53:28

Stop! You need to take a deep breath and calm down.

0:53:280:53:32

As far as I'm aware from the news that I've read on my phone,

0:54:050:54:08

that, uh, currently all executions are a go.

0:54:080:54:10

It's almost like they're not willing to look at

0:54:190:54:22

if this person is actually innocent or guilty.

0:54:220:54:25

They just want some type of blood spilled,

0:54:250:54:28

and want to call it justice.

0:54:280:54:30

MOBILE VIBRATES

0:54:300:54:31

-It's Jeff.

-Oh, it's Jeff.

0:54:310:54:34

Hello?

0:54:360:54:37

Yes.

0:54:370:54:39

OK. We've still got it?

0:54:410:54:43

We still have the stay.

0:54:430:54:45

So, we got it, she can't go any further?

0:54:450:54:47

OK.

0:54:510:54:52

-OK.

-OK?

0:54:540:54:56

-Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.

-OK.

0:54:560:54:58

Oh.

0:55:000:55:01

Oh, Jesus.

0:55:020:55:04

So this is it, it goes no further.

0:55:040:55:06

This is it.

0:55:060:55:07

Whoo!

0:55:080:55:09

Stacey Johnson has a stay of execution that has not been

0:55:120:55:16

lifted and from what it appears, it's going to stay that way.

0:55:160:55:19

So, there will be one execution tonight. Unless things change,

0:55:190:55:24

you can expect Ledell Lee to be put to death.

0:55:240:55:27

Everything's a go, folks at the prison are telling me

0:55:270:55:30

that everything is in place,

0:55:300:55:31

and they are set to execute Ledell Lee at seven o'clock tonight.

0:55:310:55:36

We have received notice that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has

0:55:390:55:43

issued a temporary stay on Ledell Lee's execution until 8.15pm.

0:55:430:55:49

This is right now why, um, Ledell Lee is alive.

0:56:030:56:08

It's a temp,

0:56:080:56:09

it's a stay from the Supreme Court of the United States.

0:56:090:56:12

He has roughly six cases we believe pending...

0:56:120:56:15

-Right.

-...at this point, and that is really it.

0:56:150:56:18

That is the last place that you can take your case...

0:56:180:56:21

I'm Brandy Davis, the cousin of Ledell Lee Davis, I'm here to

0:56:250:56:29

protest against the execution.

0:56:290:56:30

I want him to stay alive tonight.

0:56:300:56:32

It's wrong, it's wrong,

0:56:320:56:35

and we have to answer to somebody for doing this to them.

0:56:350:56:38

I call them legal murderers, you're taking someone's life

0:56:410:56:44

and I just believe that thou shall not kill,

0:56:440:56:48

and that one day they're going to face another judge and they're

0:56:480:56:52

going to be held accountable for the killing that they've done.

0:56:520:56:56

This is giving me a good taste of what I'm in for Monday night with my brother.

0:57:070:57:11

I'm Jack Jones' sister, so he's set to be executed, uh,

0:57:180:57:21

Monday night, um, with Marcel Williams.

0:57:210:57:25

So, um, I'm out here, I wasn't intending to come out here tonight.

0:57:250:57:29

I had a visit with Jack today and decided to stay here

0:57:290:57:32

and support people that I can totally relate with. So, I'm here to show my support,

0:57:320:57:36

um, to Ledell's family, I'm here to support Stacey's wife

0:57:360:57:40

and daughter just to show people everywhere that there's

0:57:400:57:44

someone that's getting ready to face the same thing that's going on tonight, on Monday,

0:57:440:57:48

um, what we go through out here.

0:57:480:57:50

May I have your attention, please?

0:58:000:58:03

All right.

0:58:070:58:08

The information that I have at this point indicates that the

0:58:110:58:14

stay has been lifted by the Supreme Court.

0:58:140:58:17

Uh, so, uh, we will begin the process of carrying out

0:58:170:58:21

the sentence of Ledell Lee.

0:58:210:58:23

Uh, once that sentence is carried out I will be notified,

0:58:230:58:27

and I will come back to the podium and notify the pool accordingly.

0:58:270:58:30

What we know about the injection protocol, there are two vials first of the midazolam

0:58:470:58:53

and then if he's unconscious they will move to the next step.

0:58:530:58:57

There is a lot of attention now on how well

0:58:570:59:00

and effective it works, and how long it takes.

0:59:000:59:03

In a couple of those disturbing botched executions, it took hours.

0:59:030:59:08

The hope for all involved is that

0:59:080:59:12

it certainly doesn't take that long once the process begins.

0:59:120:59:15

At 11.21pm, the condemned arrives in the execution chamber.

1:00:091:00:14

BELL TOLLS

1:00:151:00:17

The condemned is restrained.

1:00:171:00:19

At 11.27pm...

1:00:211:00:23

..the intravenous catheters are inserted.

1:00:251:00:28

BELL TOLLS

1:00:281:00:30

At 11.39pm, the witnesses enter the viewing room.

1:00:321:00:36

BELL TOLLS

1:00:361:00:37

At 11.44pm, the curtains to the viewing room are opened.

1:00:411:00:46

BELL TOLLS

1:00:461:00:47

BELL TOLLS

1:00:531:00:54

The director asks the condemned inmate for his final words.

1:00:541:00:58

No final words are spoken.

1:01:021:01:04

BELL TOLLS

1:01:041:01:05

At 11.45pm, the chemicals are administered.

1:01:071:01:11

BELL TOLLS

1:01:171:01:18

At 11.56pm, the coroner pronounces death.

1:01:291:01:33

PHONE RINGS

1:01:461:01:48

Everybody ready?

1:02:101:02:11

A lethal injection was administered at 11.44pm

1:02:151:02:18

and the coroner pronounced Ledell Lee

1:02:181:02:21

dead at 11.56pm this 20th day of April,

1:02:211:02:26

carrying out the sentence of the Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas,

1:02:261:02:30

entered on October 16th, 1995.

1:02:301:02:34

His eyes closed over a process of about two or three minutes.

1:02:581:03:02

You could...

1:03:021:03:04

They dropped and then became closed and they did not open again at any point other than when the...

1:03:041:03:09

..they were opened by the coroner doing the check.

1:03:091:03:12

Do you believe he experienced any

1:03:121:03:14

undue pain or suffering in this process?

1:03:141:03:17

Not from what I could see.

1:03:171:03:19

I'd have to agree with that statement as well.

1:03:201:03:23

It seems like he lost consciousness pretty quick

1:03:261:03:28

and then shortly after that, uh,

1:03:281:03:30

the other drugs were administered and then death soon followed.

1:03:301:03:34

A lot of issues about the drug midazolam.

1:03:341:03:37

No problems with it tonight, that's for sure.

1:03:371:03:40

Ledell Lee was executed, the first execution in Arkansas in 12 years.

1:03:401:03:44

That's pretty unprofessional right there.

1:03:551:03:57

Just laughing and high fiving.

1:03:591:04:00

It's crazy. Joking around, punching each other.

1:04:021:04:06

The ADC staff carried out their responsibilities extremely well, uh,

1:04:531:04:58

and more importantly tonight, the family of Debra Reece, uh, who was

1:04:581:05:04

taken from them back in 1993, will go to sleep with

1:05:041:05:08

the justice, uh, they

1:05:081:05:11

were seeking, and, uh, the closure that they've been looking for.

1:05:111:05:15

That's all I have.

1:05:161:05:18

One of the last things I said to Ledell,

1:05:341:05:36

you know when I was kind of choked up was that I was...

1:05:361:05:39

..I was sorry I couldn't do more because the truth is, you know,

1:05:391:05:43

there's always more I could have done.

1:05:431:05:45

I could have taken fewer cases, uh, outside of his case

1:05:451:05:49

and worked more on his case and maybe the outcome would be

1:05:491:05:52

different, and those thoughts are going to stay with me forever.

1:05:521:05:56

Ledell Lee made this conscious decision to be evil.

1:05:591:06:03

There's no excuse for that,

1:06:031:06:05

because there have to be some bright lines in our society where we

1:06:051:06:09

hold people personally responsible and accountable.

1:06:091:06:12

And that's what the death penalty did in this case with Ledell Lee.

1:06:121:06:16

You feel kind of bad, cos we got the stay, nothing happened to

1:06:201:06:24

Stacey, but yet at the same time, there's sadness because Ledell

1:06:241:06:29

lost his life, and it could have been us, it could have been us.

1:06:291:06:33

I honestly don't know what to think right now, you know,

1:06:351:06:38

I'm just looking at everything and I'm just saying to myself,

1:06:381:06:42

you know, just get rid of the death penalty, period.

1:06:421:06:45

You know, I believe in justice but, uh,

1:06:451:06:47

I don't believe death is justice.

1:06:471:06:49

I didn't realise it for a second and then they said that he got a stay again, and then, uh...

1:07:011:07:09

..my mind immediately went black.

1:07:101:07:11

It was devastating.

1:07:151:07:18

I drove straight up to the cemetery

1:07:181:07:20

and there's an oak tree that they buried my mother next to.

1:07:201:07:24

I spent about an hour and a half in the dark.

1:07:261:07:28

I needed to say something, even though nothing can really be said.

1:07:291:07:34

I thought that I'd failed her.

1:07:431:07:45

The pictures show her on the passenger side of her vehicle,

1:08:121:08:16

and a black male driver of the vehicle.

1:08:161:08:21

I'm so sorry.

1:08:241:08:25

I am going to be present when the state murders my brother.

1:08:301:08:36

This was one of the worst crimes I ever worked, uh,

1:08:381:08:42

because of the young girl involved.

1:08:421:08:44

Lacey said to him, "Please don't hurt my mamma," and Jack told her,

1:08:441:08:51

"I'm not going to hurt your mamma, I'm here to hurt you."

1:08:511:08:55

Documentary series about the unprecedented number of executions scheduled in Arkansas, USA, of eight men in ten days. The governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, has scheduled eight men to be put to death within ten days of each other. The reason for the unprecedented timetable is to use up the state's supply of a lethal injection drug called midazolam before it expires. With access to the families of victims and of those on death row, this series follows the eight cases from both sides, in the weeks, days, hours and minutes leading up to each scheduled execution. From inside the prison walls, we also hear from the inmates themselves as they reflect on their crimes, plead for their lives and get ready to be part of the most condensed spate of death sentences in recent American history.

In this episode, inmate Stacey Johnson and his family are attempting to get his execution stayed on the basis that DNA testing could prove his innocence. However, the daughter of Johnson's victim, who witnessed the murder, is fighting for the execution to go ahead so she can finally put her mother's death behind her.

We are also present at the clemency hearings for inmate Ledell Lee, who is scheduled to die on the same night as Johnson. We meet Lee's defence attorney, who is attempting to halt his client's execution on the basis that he didn't receive a fair trial. However, 24 years after the murder, Lee's original prosecuting attorney is still fighting for his execution to go ahead.


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