After 12 years and hundreds of hours of legal battles, the state of Arkansas has successfully taken a man's life. Ledell Lee, a convicted murderer who'd been on death row for more than 20 years, was executed late Thursday after the US Supreme Court decided not to intervene, CNN reports. Prison officials say the 51-year-old inmate, who denied killing 26-year-old Debra Reese in 1993, requested Holy Communion as his last meal and declined to make a final statement. Neil Gorsuch voted with the majority in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to allow the execution to proceed, reports the New York Times. Lee, whose death warrant expired at midnight, took 12 minutes to die and was pronounced dead at 11:56pm.
Arkansas had planned to execute eight inmates before the end of April, but court decisions spared the first three men and put the execution of a fourth in doubt, the AP reports. The ACLU and the Innocence Project had called for post-conviction DNA testing in the case of Lee, who was also convicted of two rapes and suspected of a second murder. In the attack Lee was executed for, Reese was sexually assaulted before being hit 36 times with a tire-thumping tool that her husband, a truck driver, had given her to protect herself with when he was on the road. Her son, Joseph Lucky, was 6 years old when she was killed. At Lee's final clemency hearing, Lucky called him "the embodiment of evil," THV11 reports. (Read more Arkansas stories.)