|Arkansas' death chamber|
This article was published in collaboration with Vice.
Arkansas, which has not put anyone to death since 2005, is about to embark on a grimly accelerated task. The state plans to execute seven men — a full fifth of its death row — over 11 days beginning later this month.
The rapid-fire executions, set to begin April 17, were prompted by a looming expiration date on the state’s store of the sedative midazolam, one of the pharmaceuticals used in its lethal injection protocol and an increasingly difficult drug to obtain. The plan has attracted a flood of publicity, and a rush of activity.
Lawyers are contesting the state’s lethal injection law, and anti-death penalty advocates are arguing that midazolam has been implicated in botched executions elsewhere. Nearly two dozen former corrections officials from other states sent an open letter to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson about the potential harm to the mental health of correctional officers. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has warned that the executions might imperil the state’s trade relations with Europe, and a crowdfunding campaign aims to help family members of the men make final visits. Meanwhile, some of the men are filing last-minute appeals and appearing before the parole board to ask for clemency. (The governor originally scheduled eight men to be executed, but one of them, Jason McGehee, earned a recommendation for clemency from the board, leading a federal judge to stay his execution.)
While the timetable is unusual, the cases themselves have hallmarks common to capital cases in America. In most, although not all, the families of victims support the death sentence. Lawyers and advocates for the defendants have investigated the life stories of their clients, presenting evidence of poverty, abuse, and mental illness that may not have been considered at trial.
Last month, advocates at the Fair Punishment Project, affiliated with Harvard Law School, issued a report summarizing this evidence in each of the Arkansas cases, as well as numerous instances in which trial defenders failed to present it in court — a common scenario, not just in Arkansas.
Here’s who is scheduled to be executed, compiled from appellate records, news reports, and the research of the Fair Punishment Project.
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Source: The Marshall Project, April 10, 2017
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