Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, R-Ark., said the earliest Arkansas could see a restart of the execution process is in mid-May when a stay of execution for Jason McGehee will expire. McGehee was one of four death row inmates whose executions in the most recent 8-person lethal injection schedule were not carried out due to last-minute legal challenges.
“There are currently 29 inmates on death row, and of those, four of them had exhausted their appeals. Now, keep in mind, those were the same four that had execution dates set and that the courts sent back. So we will go back to the Arkansas Supreme Court on Bruce Ward and Don Davis, and Stacey Johnson’s case will go back to Sevier County for the trial court to look at the DNA,” said Rutledge, who appeared on this week’s TV edition of Talk Business & Politics.
“Jason McGehee had a stay put in place. That stay will expire in mid-May, and at that time, we can revisit,” she added. “There’s one more inmate who we’re waiting to hear back from the Supreme Court of the United States as to whether or not all appeals have been exhausted.”
That inmate is Jack Greene, who was convicted in 1992 for the 1991 murder of 69-year old Sidney Burnett, a preacher living in Knoxville, Arkansas (Johnson County). Greene tortured, stabbed and shot Burnett for helping his ex-girlfriend who was trying to escape from Greene’s abuse. Before killing Burnett, Greene had traveled the week before to North Carolina and shot and killed his brother, Tommy Greene.
The process for triggering the execution process begins with Rutledge, who notifies the governor when the appeals process and stays of execution are lifted. Then, the governor is allowed to set the execution dates as he sees fit. With the state struggling to find a supply of the three-drug cocktail it used in its most recent series of lethal injections, there is no certainty to when the next round of executions may be set.
“I will give the governor those names that he can set dates for execution. I will not be pushing him to set those dates. This is something that is strictly the governor’s decision once he knows that those inmates have exhausted all their appeals,” Rutledge said.
Arkansas lawmakers have been discussing a number of options related to revamping the execution system. Frustrated by last minute delays and midnight deadlines, they are considering changes to the process that would provide state officials more flexibility to carry out executions but not infringe on inmates’ rights or due process. State legislators are also discussing other methods of execution besides lethal injection.
Present Arkansas law allows for lethal injection or the electric chair to carry out state executions. Rutledge said it would be difficult to go back to the electric chair.
“Both of the methods that we have on the books, the lethal injection, the protocol which the legislature set and that’s what we used to carry out these four executions has been upheld in the courts. We still have the electric chair and electrocution on the books; however, we have since not used that in decades and as a matter of fact, that chair is in the Old Statehouse Museum,” she said.
Watch Rutledge’s full interview in the video below.