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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 -…

Outcry after Arkansas judge who stayed executions joins anti-death penalty rally

Pulaski County circuit judge Wendell Griffen
Pulaski County circuit judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death
penalty demonstration outside the state governor’s mansion, Arkansas.
Republican lawmakers questioned Judge Wendell Griffen’s impartiality after he lay bound on a cot following his ruling to halt executions

The judge who on Friday barred Arkansas from executing six prisoners in rapid succession followed his ruling by attending an anti-death penalty rally, where he lay down on a cot and bound himself as though he were a condemned man on a gurney.

Judge Wendell Griffen’s participation in the protest outside the Arkansas governor’s mansion sparked outrage among death penalty supporters, including Republican lawmakers who described it as judicial misconduct and potential grounds for Griffen’s removal from the bench.

Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge on Saturday asked the state’s highest court to vacate Griffen’s ruling and asked for a new judge to be assigned the case.

Griffen, a Pulaski County circuit judge, ruled against the state because of a dispute over how the state obtained one of its execution drugs. In an interview on Saturday, he said he was morally opposed to the death penalty and that his personal beliefs alone should not disqualify him from taking up certain cases. 

“We have never, in my knowledge, been so afraid to admit that people can have personal beliefs yet can follow the law, even when to follow the law means they must place their personal feelings aside,” he said. 

On Friday, Griffen granted a restraining order preventing Arkansas from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs it uses in executions, because the supplier said the state misleadingly obtained the drug.

The ruling came a day before a federal judge halted the executions on different grounds. The back-to-back decisions upend what had been a plan to execute eight men in 11 days, starting on Monday, because the state’s supply of one of the other execution drugs expires at the end of the month. 

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Source: The Guardian, April 15, 2017

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