Arkansas Politics Blog

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The execution of death row inmate Kenneth Williams is only hours away, scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight. Attorneys for Williams have started to court action.

The filing in Pulaski County Circuit Court asserts medical conditions, including: sickle cell, lupus, and organic brain damage could cause complications and lead to severe pain and suffering.

Solomon Graves Department of Correction
Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas has a practice of cutting off witness access to an audio feed in the state’s death chamber after the soon to be executed inmate’s opportunity to give last words. After lethal injection drugs are administered witnesses have to rely only on sight to evaluate an execution. The state is the sole audial observer once the execution begins.

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.

Jay Woodson Dickey, Jr., the former Fourth District Congressman from south Arkansas, has passed away from complications with Parkinson’s disease, Talk Business & Politics has learned. His son Ted Dickey confirmed the news early Friday morning.

Dickey, 77, served in Congress from 1993 to 2001. His upset election over Democrat Bill McCuen in 1992 – a year where Arkansas voters went overwhelmingly for native son Bill Clinton for President – made Dickey the first Republican to hold the south Arkansas seat since Reconstruction.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
npr.org

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch ruled in his first big case late Thursday night. It allowed Arkansas to move forward with executions after a nearly 12 years lull.

The newest Supreme Court Justice’s vote helped reconstitute the court’s 5-4 conservative majority. Gorsuch joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito in denying death row inmate Ledell Lee’s appeals. He was executed last night.

The scene outside the Arkansas Governor's Mansion before the execution of Ledell Lee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas has executed its first death row inmate in nearly 12 years after clearing numerous legal challenges. While the death penalty is a popular form of punishment in Arkansas, a devoted few dozen protestors have been showing up this week at Governor Asa Hutchinson’s residence. 

Over the course of the day, the vigil for Ledell Lee ebbed and flowed in attendance. There was a constant crowd size of about 50 people.

Many people, including Sandra Cone, stayed for six hours until the state’s last hour execution.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

UPDATE 11:30 p.m.: The Department of Correction reversed its policy without explanation and media witnesses will be able to take notes during the execution of Ledell Lee this hour.

ORIGINAL POST: If courts do end up giving the go-ahead on Arkansas’s execution plans, media will have less rights to document the execution than just about anywhere else in the nation. Three members of the media are allowed by the state to witness an execution but officials are banning the use of paper and pencil to take notes – forcing reporters to rely solely on memory.

Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

With the tax filing deadline looming, Donald Trump’s returns took the spotlight early on Monday's town hall meeting with U.S. Senator Tom Cotton and U.S. Representative French Hill. The two Republicans were met with plenty of unsatisfied constituents among the 1000 or so in attendance.

"As far as I’m aware the President says he’s still under audit and he’s going to release them when he’s done," said Cotton in response to a question. Cotton's response drew some of the loudest jeers of the day.

Central Arkansas Congressman French Hill is holding his first town hall meeting since President Donald Trump took office at a west Little Rock hotel during the workday next Monday. U.S. Senator Tom Cotton will join him.

The state's junior Senator has participated in several town hall style public meetings, some with other Arkansas congressman, replete with hundreds of upset constituents. The event Monday will be Sen. Cotton's first town hall in central Arkansas.

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. 

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