CUMMINS UNIT, Ark.(NBC) - The state of Arkansas executed death row inmate Ledell Lee late Thursday, its first death sentence in more than a decade and the first of four inmates scheduled to die before the end of the month when a crucial lethal injection drug is set to expire.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear five last minute appeals by Lee's attorneys to stay his execution, which began at 11:44 p.m. (12:44 a.m. ET). Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m., Arkansas Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelly said.
Lee, 51, was sentenced to death in October 1995 in Pulaski County, Arkansas, for the murder of 26-year-old Debra Reese.
He declined to make a final statement, officials said. Three media witnesses reported that Lee remained under sedation during the procedure.
"His last meal request was that he receive communion, and he was given communion this afternoon," Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves told reporters.
Because Communion — a bread wafer and a small amount of wine representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ — was not a full meal, the Department of Correction offered to provide a meal on his behalf to the rest of the prison population. Lee declined.
The execution caps days of legal jostling by Lee's defense lawyers and attorneys for the state of Arkansas over the state's right to use a paralytic as part of its lethal injection cocktail. A court OK'd the drug earlier Thursday.
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