Arkansas Politics Blog

Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Constituents of central Arkansas Congressman French Hill rallied at his Little Rock office on Monday to decry his vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. KUAR estimates about 50 people lined a sidewalk on North University Avenue holding signs saying “repeal and replace French Hill,” among other slogans. It was a grassroots effort that Katherine Pope helped organize.

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

Updated at 6:45 p.m.  

Kenneth Williams, who is set to be executed Thursday at 7 p.m. killed four people in separate incidents. But relatives of the victims are mixed about whether his execution should be carried out. Loved ones for the man whose case led to the death sentence are supporting the lethal injection, but relatives of another victim say the execution would only cause more pain.

/eeas.europa.eu

Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has made pushing international trade a hallmark of his first term, received a letter from the European Union Ambassador to the U.S. calling for the state to stop executions. The letter was published Wednesday afternoon by the EU. The governor's office has not said whether it plans to reply.

adc.arkansas.gov

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.

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