The planned execution of eight death row inmates during 11 days in Arkansas is being fought by lawyers.
Rushing to execute:
The executions, sanctioned by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, will start 17 April. According to Hutchinson, the state needed to use up its last batch of a sedative called Midazolam before it expires and becomes unavailable
The inmates in line for execution are Don Davis, Bruce Ward, Stacey Johnson, Ledell Lee, Marcel Williams, Jack Jones and Kenneth Williams.
A federal judge in eastern Arkansas was presented the case on Monday. The lawyers argued that a shortened series of deaths could prompt mistakes and suffering of inmates and employees.
This occurred with Clayton Lockett, whose execution lasted 43 minutes where he has in constant agony, as authorities in Oklahoma decided to kill two people in one night and made mistakes, the warden called it a “bloody mess”. This prompted Oklahoma to impose a new rule that executions must be scheduled seven days apart.
The eight inmates set for execution, four black men and four white men, are a part of the 35 prisoners on death row. They were convicted of murders between 1989 and 1999.
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Brian Stull wrote that the state is “rushing to kill” these eight men. He said: “By racing to use a drug known to play a part in botched executions, the governor risks debasing the state of Arkansas, its citizens, and the very American traditions of justice by torturing prisoners to death.”
Stull stated that when Midazolam, which is a sedative normally used in hospital for minor procedures, is combined with two other drugs usually used in executions, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, it “produces unspeakable pain before death”.
The drug is no longer used by Florida and Arizona.
Hutchinson had a press conference last March, where he said: “I would love to have those extended over a period of multiple months and years, but that’s not the circumstances that I find myself in. And, again, the families of the victims that have endured this for so many years deserve a conclusion to it.”
The case will be considered by US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas Judge Kristine Baker, who was appointed by President Barack Obama. She has previously made important rulings on abortion and gay marriage, but this is the first death penalty case since she joined in 2012.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1977, this is the highest number of executions to be performed in such high succession.
The drug planned to be used in the execution was previously used in the botched executions of several death row inmates across the US, including Dennis McGuire in Ohio, Joseph Wood in Arizona, both in 2014, and Ronald Smith in Alabama.
61% of people in Arkansas support the death penalty while 51% said they supported the eight executions, according to a survey conducted by Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College.
The last execution in Arkansas was 12 years ago.