Arkansas Prisons

The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Alabama death row inmate has the right to a mental health evaluation from a neutral party. Previously, such evaluations were done by doctors within state government. 

In April, Arkansas inmates Don Davis and Bruce Ward were granted stays of execution after asking for such independent evaluations.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an Alabama inmate who complained that he didn't have an independent mental health expert to help him try to stave off a death sentence at his trial.

The justices divided 5-4 Monday in siding with inmate James McWilliams. He did not have his own expert when he was convicted of raping and killing a convenience store clerk in Tuscaloosa.

The justices had previously decided that poor defendants whose mental health might be a factor in the criminal charges they are facing have a right to an expert's evaluation.

http://www.goodgrid.com/

Arkansas Community Correction officials plan to continue operating an online portal that assists ex-convicts in their transition back to society. On Wednesday the state Board of Corrections approved a $50,000 contract for maintenance and upgrades to the Good Grid, a social media-like website. It allows former inmates to upload and build resumes and set up profiles accessible to prospective employers.

Arkansas prison officials have asked the state's highest court to stay a judge's order that they must disclose more information about one of the drugs they plan to use in the executions of eight men over a 10-day period in April.

The attorney general's office on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to issue a stay of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's order requiring Arkansas to release copies of the package insert and labels for its supply of potassium chloride, one of the three drugs used in its lethal injection protocol.

A lawyer is trying to obtain information about the drugs Arkansas will use in an unprecedented run of executions next month, but prison officials say the information is a secret they must keep.

Steven Shults was in court Thursday seeking the drugs' packing labels. The prison officials say that, after The Associated Press previously used labels to identify drugmakers, they will no longer distribute them.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen
PBS

An Arkansas judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection law, the latest setback for efforts to block the state's unprecedented plan to conduct four double executions over a 10-day period next month.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen granted the state's motion Tuesday to dismiss the lawsuit filed by eight inmates facing lethal injection next month. Griffen said he has no jurisdiction over the case after the state Supreme Court upheld the lethal injection law and protocol.

Will Bond Bryan King Dan Greenberg
Jacob Kuaffman / KUAR News

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Monday that would require offenders sentenced three times previously to the Department of Correction to serve at least 80% of their sentences on the next commitment.

Senate Bill 177 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, passed by a voice vote and now goes to the full Senate.

Jason McGehee
Department of Correction

The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected an effort to block the execution for one of eight inmates who are scheduled to be put to death next month.

Justices on Thursday denied a motion to recall the mandate in the case of convicted murderer Jason McGehee, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on April 27. McGehee's attorney had asked justices to vacate his death sentence and send his case back to a lower court for resentencing, citing problems with the verdict forms in his resentencing.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a bill that sets up three centers aimed at reducing the incarceration rate of those with mental illness.

The governor has earmarked $5 million for three regional Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Centers, saying they will benefit public safety. If law enforcement officers suspect someone they encounter is in need of mental health treatment, the staff at the centers can offer evaluations and treatment.

Hutchinson signed the bill Wednesday. He had listed it among his priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected an effort to invalidate orders setting executions for eight death row inmates, saying there's no stay preventing the executions from taking place.

The state's highest court on Thursday granted Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request to clarify that there is no stay for the eight men who are scheduled to be put to death in April. The inmates' attorneys had argued a stay was still in place since an amended complaint over Arkansas' lethal injection law was pending in a lower court.

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