Governor Asa Hutchinson has granted clemency for death row inmate Jason McGehee. The the 21-year-old man was found guilty of murdering teenager John Melbourne, Jr. in 1996. He'll now serve life without parole, the same sentence as two accomplices. The governor explained his decision.
“My intent to grant clemency to Mr. McGehee is based partly on the recommendation of the Parole Board to commute his sentence from Death to Life Without Parole,” said Governor Hutchinson. “In making this decision I considered many factors including the entire trial transcript, meetings with members of the victim’s family and the recommendation of the Parole Board. In addition, the disparity in sentence given to Mr. McGehee compared to the sentences of his co-defendants was a factor in my decision, as well.”
The announcement comes on the same day the governor set an execution date for another man, Jack Greene. Hutchinson had also previously tried to execute McGeehe as one of eight men originally slated to be put to death in April.
U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall, Jr. issued a stay for McGeehe prior to his April execution date after the Arkansas Parole Board recommended the governor grant him clemency. That recommendation required the governor to take 30 days to assess the recommendation. That 30 day window pushed the soonest available execution date beyond the April window the state had before its lethal injection drug stock expired.
Earlier this month the state secured a new source of one of its lethal injection drugs, secretly with $250 in cash, and now able to resume executions. While Jack Greene is now headed to the death chamber, Mr. McGehee will now be spending the rest of his life behind bars.
UPDATE 12:08 p.m.
Assistant Federal Public Defender John C. Williams has commented on the governor's decision to turn a death sentence into one of life without parole.
"Today Governor Hutchinson announced his intention to commute Jason McGehee’s sentence from death to life without parole. In doing so, he accepted what the Arkansas Parole Board previously acknowledged: that Jason’s youth at the time of his offense and his rehabilitation while in prison make him deserving of clemency. This is a just outcome given that Jason’s equally culpable co-defendants are serving sentences less than death. Jason’s case offers a prime example of why clemency is a necessary part of capital sentencing. The Governor has used this power appropriately and wisely here. We are grateful for his decision to show mercy."