Arkansas Executions 2017

Last week a former Little Rock police officer took the stand in federal court to explain what happened on a night five years ago when he shot and killed a 15 year old. If he convinces 12 jurors he took appropriate action he and the city will not have to come up with millions in punitive and compensatory damages.

The same could never happen if something goes wrong in the planned executions of eight men over 11 days beginning Monday, say defense attorney Jeff Rosenzweig and Terrence Cain, University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law professor.

“The 11th [amendment to the Constitution] prohibits [lawsuits seeking] damages against states unless Congress specifically abrogates,” says Cain.

“The state has sovereign immunity in something like this,” Rosenzweig says.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is to talk with reporters Thursday morning about the pending executions of seven death row inmates. The governor scheduled the lethal injections over a 10-day period before the state's supply of one of the drugs used in the process expires.

Between 1982 and 1999, Jerry Givens executed more than 60 death row inmates for the state of Virginia. He also knows what it is like to be an inmate himself. Now, Givens is publicly against the death penalty and is urging Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to reconsider a plan to execute seven inmates in 10 days for the sake of the people who will be carrying out the executions.

American Bar Association President Linda Klein
americanbar.org

The American Bar Association, which doesn't take a position on the death penalty, is urging Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to reconsider the state's plan to execute seven inmates later this month. In a letter that the group says was delivered to the Governor's Office Tuesday, ABA President Linda Klein said the "unprecedented execution schedule undermines due process."

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Governor Hutchinson:

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."

Jack Harold Jones
Department of Correction

The Arkansas Parole Board has recommended the governor move forward with plans to execute one of seven inmates facing lethal injection later this month.

The board on Monday voted 7-0 that the clemency request by Jack Harold Jones Jr. was without merit. The ultimate decision on whether to spare Jones' life rests with Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Jones is one of seven inmates scheduled to die this month. His execution is set for April 24.

Arkansas-born, best selling author John Grisham penned an editorial in USA Today calling for a stop to Arkansas’s plan to kill eight death row inmates from April 17th to 27th. One inmate has a stay on his sentence. 

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Arkansas Department of Correction

Arkansas voters remain firmly committed to the death penalty despite an upcoming quick execution schedule, advances made in DNA testing, and a national trend towards ending the practice.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey suggests more than 2-to-1 support for the death penalty versus life without parole.

Q: Do you support the death penalty, or should the state of Arkansas make life without parole the maximum prison sentence for capital offenses?

61% Support death penalty
29% Life without parole
10% Don’t Know

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.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied requests to stay the executions of two death row inmates scheduled to die this month. The court denied requests from inmates Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee. The court’s orders relate to the inmates’ post-conviction appeals process.

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