GRADY, Ark. - Although the state's executions are on hold due to a judge's temporary restraining order against one of the lethal injection drugs, Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson will remain in holding cells next to the death chamber at the Cummins Unit.
The Arkansas Department of Correction spokesperson, Solomon Graves, said preparations will continue to move forward, pending the outcome of any appeals at the state and federal levels.
After more than 20 years on death row, both Lee and Johnson maintain their innocence, arguing they deserve post-conviction DNA testing.
In April 1993, Stacey Johnson beat, strangled and slit the throat of a young De Queen mother, Carol Heath, while her six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son hid in their home.
"I'm sorry but it's been hell," said Melissa Cassidy, Heath's sister. "I've been living in hell. This has been the hardest thing I've ever had to go through my whole entire life."
Johnson was sentenced to death a year later. While he spent the next 23 years on death row, Cassidy watched her sister's children grow up without a mother.
Time hasn't healed their pain.
"We all want an end," said Jonathan Erickson, Heath's son.
But after more than two decades, Johnson maintains his innocence.
"I'm at a point right now where I'm about to lose my life for a crime in which I didn't commit," Johnson said.
His wife of 13 years argued alongside him and his attorney at his most recent clemency hearing in March that he deserves post-conviction DNA testing.
"Let my husband be able to prove his innocence and be one of the many who have been exonerated and not one of the many who were later found to be innocent after they were executed," Judy Johnson said.
As Johnson's case hangs in legal limbo less than 24 hours before his scheduled execution, Cassidy asks him for one thing: admit he killed her sister.
"That's a long time and he has shown no remorse," she said.
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