Arkansas’ Plans for Double Execution Nixed by US Supreme Court
It’s been 12 years since Arkansas executed a death row inmate. But that nearly changed earlier this week as the Arkansas Department of Corrections planned to execute two men back-to-back.
Don Davis and Bruce Ward were being prepped to receive lethal injections Monday. Davis, in fact, had consumed his final meal and moved to the unit where executions are performed. Both men had been granted stays of execution by the Arkansas Supreme Court previously; the state was confident that a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court would succeed in overriding this decision, however.
Instead, this request was denied with no official reason provided, effectively sparing both men for now. Their stays were initially granted on the grounds that the men were both mentally impaired and had not been examined properly before their trials.
This development put quite a wrench in Arkansas’ ambitious plan to carry out lethal injection executions for eight men on the state’s death row by the end of the month.
Why the big rush, though? The state’s supply of one of the key drugs used in its lethal injection mixture — midazolam — is set to expire after April.
But these are not the only obstacles facing those who hope to revive capital punishment in Arkansas.
Though the policy varies from state to state, in Arkansas executions must legally have at least six “respectable citizens” witness the procedure. However, people seem uninterested in watching men be put to death — who would have thought?
This has become such an issue for the Arkansas Department of Corrections that its officials have gone so far as to reach out to members of the community for volunteers. In one instance, the department’s director, Wendy Kelley, went to a Rotary Club meeting in Little Rock for just this reason. The surreal request was initially interpreted as a joke from the club members.
“There was a little laugh,” but “it quickly became obvious that [Kelley] was not kidding,” the Rotary Club president said.
Given these issues and the actions of both the Arkansas and U.S. Supreme Courts, the state does not seem like it will be able to go through with all eight planned executions.
The question, then, is whether or not the campaign to make use of capital punishment in Arkansas will run out of track or if these developments will encourage officials to follow other states’ footsteps in seeking alternative methods of execution.
States like Arizona and Mississippi have made dubious changes to their laws in an attempt to keep capital punishment intact. The former, for example, recently updated its correction department’s protocol to encourage those sentenced to death row or their legal representatives to provide Arizona with the drugs needed for lethal injection — a move that’s been called “frankly absurd” and “nonsensical” by experts.
Mississippi, like Utah, is seriously considering bringing back archaic methods of execution like the gas chamber, the electric chair and even firing squads.
As in Arkansas, these changes are prompted by a nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs. While it might make the most sense, practically, morally and legally, to simply phase out the use of capital punishment in the 31 states where it is still permitted, some states are pursuing baffling measures to cling to executions.
Hopefully Arkansas lawmakers will have the good sense to see the writing on the wall and do away with death row altogether.
Tell Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson that he should reverse the state’s plans to follow through with its eight executions this month by adding your name to this petition!
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