Sarah Whites-Koditschek

Reporter, Arkansas Public Media

Sarah Whites-Koditschek is a Little Rock-based reporter for Arkansas Public Media covering education, healthcare, state politics, and criminal justice issues. Formerly she worked as a reporter and producer for WHYY in Philadelphia, and was an intern and editorial assistant for Morning Edition at National Public Radio in Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

Sarah is a graduate of Smith College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies. She was a student at the Stabile Center For Investigative Journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

She has won awards from the Associated Press in Arkansas as well the Public Radio News Directors Inc.

Contact Sarah at sarah@arkansaspublicmedia.org or 501-683-8655.

As Arkansas's execution plans, initially scheduling an unprecedented eight lethal injections over an 11 day period drew national and international attention, news staff from KUAR and Arkansas Public Media have been reporting the blow-by-blow developments for NPR programs and news outlets worldwide. Below you can hear or find links to many of those reports. The entire news team has also been regularly filing short newscast reports for NPR News.

On this edition of KUAR's Week-In-Review Podcast we sit down with Bobby Ampezzan and Sarah Whites-Koditschek of Arkansas Public Media to talk about the story that has consumed the state this week: the first execution carried out in 12 years. We discuss the night of the execution, the legal developments leading up to it — including decisions by state and federal courts — and have a look ahead to next week when three more executions are scheduled.

Arkansas’s execution secrecy law prevents the identities of drug manufacturers and sellers from being public. It also protects the identities of people carrying out executions.

 

But inmates’ attorneys say that secrecy, and a general lack of information about the state’s lethal injection protocol, obscure whether adequate safeguards are in place to use the controversial drug midazolam.

Arkansas’s now six scheduled executions this month have been effectively stayed, again. This time it’s the result of a drug supplier suing to block usage of its product in the state’s lethal injections.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray in Little Rock has granted a temporary injunction in favor of the drug supplier McKesson Corp. The company says the Department of Correction used deceptive practices to obtain its vecuronium bromide.

Testimony from both sides diverged on whether prison officials were forthright that they were ordering the drugs for use in an execution. 

A federal judge in Little Rock has stayed the executions of eight inmates scheduled this month. The ruling came down Saturday morning granting a preliminary injunction in the case.

The inmates had argued the state’s lethal injection protocol creates a risk of severe pain, and federal Judge Kristine Baker agreed, while expressing regret for the further delay caused to families of the inmates’ victims.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen put a separate stay on the use of one of the execution drugs Friday, after a manufacturer filed suit to block its use.  Two other inmates had also received separate individual stays.

The effects of the sedative midazolam, along with Arkansas's execution practices generally, were the subject of a federal hearing that began in Little Rock Monday that could halt seven planned executions of death row inmates starting next week.  

State Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky told U.S. District Judge Karen Baker that the inmates' case has no basis in law, and that their complaints under the Eighth Amendment have already been dismissed by previous U.S. Supreme Court and 8th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings.

He deflected arguments by the inmates' attorneys that an expedited schedule of double executions over ten days would minimize the inmates' access to effective counsel and increase the risk of error at the Arkansas Department of Correction.

"A risk of maladministration or accident is not cognizable under the 8th Amendment, but more importantly, their allegation is entirely speculative."

A federal judge temporarily blocks the execution of one man who’s among eight to die over a 10-day timetable this month. What does the state’s clemency process have to do with it?

-While a federal appeals court says Ohio can’t use a controversial lethal injection drug, we explore the issues surrounding midazolam—part of Arkansas’s three-drug cocktail.

-What’s Arkansas’s congressional response to President Trump ordering airstrikes against Syria’s Assad regime?

A federal judge has granted an injunction in the execution of Jason F. McGehee, one of the eight Arkansas inmates scheduled to be executed later this month.

Marshall denied requests for injunctions for five other condemned men whom the parole board did not recommend clemency.

 A lawyer for Arkansas death row inmates scheduled for execution later this month is arguing the state's accelerated timeline is subverting the state's clemency hearing protocol, functionally eliminating a public input period for the condemned men.

Public defender Julie Vandiver made that argument today inside federal Judge D.P. Marshall Jr.'s courtroom in Little Rock.

  Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court today stayed a lower court's ruling that the Arkansas Department of Corrections must release information about the drugs expected to be used in the executions.

Schools in Arkansas get $6,600 for every student. So when kids leave a public school, the money leaves too. The state chips in temporarily to cover the financial loss, but a pair of lawmakers want to end that.

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