Governor sets execution dates; eight on death row given April dates

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 492 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson Monday set four execution dates in April for eight Arkansas inmates on death row whose appeals have been exhausted and whose cases the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear last week.

Hutchinson scheduled the eight inmates to be put to death, all for capital murder, on the following dates.
• April 17: Don Davis, Bruce Ward
• April 20: Stacey Johnson, Ledelle Lee
• April 24: Marcel Williams, Jack Jones
• April 27: Jason McGehee, Kenneth Williams

Hutchinson released a statement saying, “As required by law, I have set the execution dates for the eight convicted of capital murder. This is based upon the attorney general’s referral and the exhaustion of all appeals and court reviews that have been ongoing for more than a decade. This action is necessary to fulfill the requirement of the law, but it is also important to bring closure to the victims’ families who have lived with the court appeals and uncertainty for a very long time.”

The door to the executions was opened Feb. 21, when the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari regarding the state’s method of execution. The Arkansas Supreme Court earlier had ruled in the state’s favor in a case regarding Act 1096 of 2015 allowing makers of execution drugs to remain secret. Along with that ruling, the court had issued an injunction pending the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nine inmates’ appeals have been exhausted, but other legal responses are still available, including clemencies that Hutchinson has given no indication he will provide. Thirty-four men are on Arkansas’ death row. The last inmate executed was Eric Nance, in 2005 for the rape and murder of Julie Heath of Malvern. No executions were carried out under the two terms of Gov. Mike Beebe (2007-2015)

Act 1096 spelled out a three-drug protocol of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride and made electrocution an option. It allows drug makers of execution drugs to remain anonymous because some prefer secrecy because of publicity concerns.

The state’s supply of potassium chloride expired in January 2017. Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said Feb. 21, “We will move forward with preparations when appropriate.”

The supply of midazolam expires in April 2017, while the vercuronium bromide expires March 2018. Graves told Talk Business & Politics on Monday that “our supply remains unchanged” from the Feb. 21 statement.