Arkansas and its Plan to Execute Seven Men in 11 Days

Beginning the day after Easter, and continuing over the next 11 days, the state plans to kill seven men, four of whom are black, three white.

Unless the courts intervene, Bruce Ward and Don Davis will be the first of seven inmates on Arkansas’ death row to be executed over 11 days starting next week. The state plans to execute Ward and Davis by lethal injection on Monday, the day after Easter.

The unprecedented plan to kill seven people in such a short period of time has shocked many, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson confirmed his resolve in a meeting with reporters on Thursday. Arkansas Online reports that the governor expressed his confidence that the assembly line of executions would be carried out smoothly, and that the use of midazolam as one of the drugs in its three drug protocol would not be a problem, in spite of its involvement in botched executions in at least four states in recent years.

The drug “can be done right,” the paper quoted him as saying.

Hutchinson also told the reporters that when he set the execution dates he thought about the victims and their families, and said he had a responsibility to “God and eternity.”

The Guardian reports that lawyers for the seven men have been in federal court this week to argue that what they call “execution by assembly line,” puts their clients “at additional risk of harm because of the difficulty of carrying out eight (now seven) executions with no room for assessment in between.”

Late yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported that two pharmaceutical companies filed amicus briefs in support of the lawsuit filed by the inmates attempting to stay the executions. The paper says Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp. says their drugs, potassium chloride and midazolam, may have been acquired improperly.

Also of concern to critics is the emotional and psychological toll executing so many in such a short period of time will exact on prison staff. DPF talked with a former superintendent at Oregon State Penitentiary and a chaplain on Florida’s death row about their personal experiences in witnessing executions, and their fears that prison staff will suffer trauma, in the story following this one.

Barring last-minute stays, the state plans to execute Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee on April 20, Marcell Williams and Jack Jones on April 24, and Kenneth Williams on April 27.

Because of legal challenges and its difficulty in obtaining lethal drugs, Arkansas hasn’t executed anyone since 2005.

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