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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Eight Arkansas death row inmates sue to block executions over 10 days

Arkansas' death chamber
Arkansas' death chamber
(Reuters) - Eight Arkansas death row inmates who are scheduled to die over a 10-day period in April filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday to halt their executions, saying the state's rush to the death chamber was reckless and unconstitutional.

Governor Asa Hutchinson has approved back-to-back executions for April 17, 20, 24 and 27 to make sure a difficult-to-acquire lethal injection chemicals do not expire before the state can implement the punishments.

Arkansas' last execution was in 2005, and it has faced numerous legal challenges since then about its protocols and drug procurement secrecy.

Most U.S. death penalty states abandoned multiple executions on the same day about two decades ago because of factors including the additional strain put on the families of victims, inmates and prison staff, who needed time to review procedures and decompress.

"There is no justifiable rationale to hold multiple executions on the same day. Nor is there a justifiable rationale to hold eight executions within 10 days," according to the lawsuit, filed in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The lawsuit said the state is planning its first execution in dozen years with a new prison systems head, new protocols and a new set of lethal injection drugs, including midazolam, a sedative that has been dropped by states after it was a part of a few troubled executions.

"Just one mistake at any point can have disastrous consequences," the lawsuit said.

Hutchinson has said it would be irresponsible to tell the victims' families that Arkansas had the lethal injection drugs and did not carry out the executions.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, double and triple executions on the same day have occurred 10 times, all between 1994 and 2000, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors U.S. capital punishment.

No state has executed eight prisoners in 10 days, and only one, Texas, has executed eight prisoners in a calendar month, it said.

"This is unprecedented and it is reckless," said Robert Dunham, the center's executive director.

Oklahoma was the last state to schedule a double execution, in April 2014. Its lethal injection protocol failed on the first execution, however, and the state postponed the second one.

Source: Reuters, Jon Herskovitz, March 27, 2017


Stop Executions in Arkansas - support Death Penalty Action!


Eight executions have been scheduled in the span of ten days (two a day for four days in April) starting the day after Easter – all because the lethal injection drugs are expiring. DeathPenaltyAction.org is on the ground in Arkansas working with the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty to assist in stopping the executions. You can help!

Death Penalty Action launched on March 15, 2017, with its very first project being to assist the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty with its work to stop four double executions in 10 days. Arkansas has not had an execution since 2005. Now it wants to restart a process known to be racist, arbitrary, expensive and prone to error. If Arkansas carries out all 8 executions, it will be at a rate unmatched by any state since the United States resumed executions in 1977.

You can help stop the executions by supporting Death Penalty Action.


Death Penalty Action joins a broad network of organizations making up the movement to abolish the death penalty, some of whom are also helping in Arkansas. Death Penalty Action's focus is on filling needs which are not otherwise being met, and lifting up the visibility of this issue so that more people know about it and are driven to act.

Death Penalty Action (DPA) will provide high visibility resources, support, educational and direct action events and activities within the broader anti-death penalty movement. DPA is led by Abraham Bonowitz and Scott Langley, two seasoned anti-death penalty organizers and movement leaders.

Your support today for Death Penalty Action builds our capacity to lend our experience and expertise to the work of our allies on the ground in Arkansas and elsewhere. It will pay the basic costs any start-up has, from salaries and office equipment to the expenses of the direct services we offer. Most immediately, that includes travel and related expenses in Arkansas.

Please invest generously for the greatest impact! Thank you.

Source: DeathPenaltyAction.org - A start-up to STOP EXECUTIONS!, March 2017

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