Arkansas Parole Board recommends clemency for one of eight condemned to die

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 702 views 

The Arkansas State Parole Board recommended Gov. Asa Hutchinson grant clemency Wednesday for one of the eight men sentenced to be executed later this month.

KATV reported that board members voted 6-1 in favor of clemency for Jason McGehee, 40, who is set to be executed April 27. Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

The board also announced it was recommending Hutchinson deny clemency to Kenneth Williams, set to be executed the same day, for the murder of Cecil Boren, a 57-year-old farmer, KATV reported. Williams was already serving a life sentence without parole for kidnapping and killing Dominique Hurd when he escaped from prison, murdered Boren and stole his truck. While driving that truck, he was involved in an accident in Missouri that killed Michael Greenwood of Springfield, Mo. He later confessed in a newspaper letter to the editor of killing Jerrell Jenkins of Pine Bluff, the Associated Press reported in 2005.

McGehee was sentenced to death Jan. 8, 1998, for capital murder for kidnapping, torturing and killing 15-year-old John Melbourne Jr. in 1996. Two defendants who participated in the attack were sentenced to life without parole.

According to McGehee’s appeal decided June 17, 1999, he and others kidnapped and murdered Melbourne on Aug. 19, 1996, after Melbourne, an acquaintance, had been apprehended using a stolen check at a shoe store and gave police information that led them to McGehee’s house. At the house, they discovered stolen checks and property, while McGehee and two others hid in the back of the house. The group beat Melbourne and then strangled him in a wooded area. His naked body was discovered by police two weeks later.

Previously, McGehee had been sentenced to 48 months of probation for three hot check violations in 1995, and then was sentenced to 90 days for theft of property in 1996. He has no major guilty disciplinary violations while in prison.

Hutchinson has scheduled eight executions for April, 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; and
• April 27, McGehee, Kenneth Williams.

No state has executed eight people in so short a timespan, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Texas executed eight prisoners in a calendar month in both May and June 1997. Arkansas is the only state to execute three inmates in one day, which it did Aug. 3, 1994, and Jan. 8, 1997.

The state will use a three-drug protocol of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The state’s supply of midazolam, a sedative, expires April 30. Resupplying execution drugs has proven challenging because manufacturers do not wish to be associated with the death penalty for moral or public relations reasons.

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.