On Monday (April 17), Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to execute the first of seven people over the course of 11 days in an attempt to beat the expiration clock on a batch of midazolam, one of the drugs the state needs for lethal injections.
Arkansas currently has 34 people—all men—on its death row. Seven of them are slated to be killed by month’s end, with executions set for April 17, 20, 24 and 27. Per NPR, they are Don Davis, Stacey E. Johnson, Jack Harold Jones Jr., Ledell Lee, Bruce Earl Ward, Kenneth Williams and Marcel Williams. Four of the men are Black.
Another incarcerated man, Jason F. McGehee, was set to be executed with the group, but the parole board recommended him for clemency last week (April 5). The recommendation requires Hutchinson’s approval to move forward, but the state must first allow a 30-day comment period, which keeps McGehee out of the lineup for next week. The state’s last execution was in 2005.
Today (April 14), Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation and other partners led a rally in opposition to the executions, and delivered more than 154,000 petition signatures to the state capitol, each of them asking the governor not to move forward.
As NPR reports, critics worry about the executions for various reasons, including concerns that:
- The midazolam won’t work—people have suffered major pain when it failed to put them to sleep ahead of the injection of deadly drugs, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that using it does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment
- The speed of the executions will lead to mistakes
- The compressed schedule deprives the incarcerated people of their rights
- The staff will suffer undue stress from carrying out the executions
Watch a livestream of the rally below here, courtesy of local station, THV11.