No One Wants to Watch Arkansas' Executions

The state is attempting to carry out 8 executions in 10 days next month
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2017 7:40 PM CDT
State to Hold Unprecedented 8 Executions in 10 Days
This 1997, file photo shows the Department of Correction death chamber in Varner, Ark., with a closed-circuit television camera mounted nearby.   (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

Arkansas hasn't carried out an execution since 2005 due to legal challenges and the availability of necessary drugs. It's apparently ready to make up for lost time. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has scheduled eight executions over 10 days in April. There will be two executions by lethal injection per day on four days. The state is in a hurry because one of its execution drugs expires at the end of April, and the drug-maker isn't selling it for executions anymore. But the rate of executions about to be attempted by Arkansas is unprecedented since the Supreme Court brought the death penalty back in 1976. Here's what you need to know:

  • A former Georgia Department of Corrections commissioner is worried about the effect of the intense execution schedule on those who have to carry them out. He ordered five deaths over two years and is still haunted by them decades later. “I don’t remember their names, but I still see them in my nightmares,” he tells the Guardian.
  • In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times accuses Arkansas of creating a death penalty "assembly line" and says a better solution is to "abandon the barbaric practice of capital punishment" all together.
  • Two of the inmates scheduled to be executed next month have filed petitions asking for a stay of execution, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports. One inmate with extreme schizophrenia is being backed by a national nonprofit.
  • A lawsuit over the state's method of execution—just part of a flurry of legal activity surrounding next month's executions—was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court, Arkansas Online reports.
  • The New York Times reports the state, which requires six witnesses per execution, is having a hard time finding people willing to volunteer. The director of the Department of Corrections even went so far as to ask members of the Little Rock Rotary Club if they were interested; they thought she was joking.
  • The BBC has a list of the eight men scheduled to be executed next month and their crimes, which date back to 1989.
  • Finally, Slate reports at least six of the inmates scheduled to be executed are very likely suffering from "crippling mental impairments."
(More capital punishment stories.)

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