Judge Blocks One of 8 Arkansas Executions

He will allow at least 5 to go ahead this month
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 7, 2017 1:00 AM CDT
Judge Blocks 1 of 8 Arkansas Executions
This photo provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows death row inmate Jason McGehee.   (Arkansas Department of Correction via AP, File)

A judge on Thursday blocked the execution of one of the eight inmates Arkansas was planning to put to death this month, but he said at least five of them could go forward even though he found that the state broke some rules and policies. US District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. ruled for Jason McGehee, 40, a day after the Arkansas Parole Board recommended Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson grant McGehee clemency. Marshall said the state must allow for a 30-day comment period that will last until after a key execution drug expires on April 30. The judge said he might also rule for inmate Jack Jones if the parole board approves his clemency petition Friday, but in the case of five other inmates, no violation tipped the scales of justice.

At McGehee's hearing, a defense attorney said the former gang leader had been only 20 years old when he was involved in a 1996 killing, and that he had a "near-perfect record in prison." The rulings came in a lawsuit filed by some of the inmates that challenges Hutchinson's decision to conduct four double executions this month. The inmates argue the unprecedented execution schedule infringes on their right to complete hearings on clemency requests. The first double execution is set for April 17. Only Texas has executed that many inmates in a month, doing it twice in 1997. Seven executions in a month would still be a record for Arkansas. The state needs six witnesses per execution, and it's having trouble finding volunteers. (Read more Arkansas stories.)

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