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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 -…

Arkansas court rejects appeal of one of 8 inmates set to die in April

Executions have been set for (top row, from left) Kenneth Williams, Jack Jones Jr., Marcell Williams, Bruce Earl Ward, and (bottom row, from left) Don Davis, Stacey Johnson, Jason McGehee and Ledelle Lee.
Executions have been set for (top row, from left) Kenneth Williams,
Jack Jones Jr., Marcell Williams, Bruce Earl Ward, and (bottom row, from
left) Don Davis, Stacey Johnson, Jason McGehee and Ledelle Lee.
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal from one of eight inmates facing execution next month, as the state rushes to move forward before the expiration date of one of the drugs used to put them to death.

The seven-member panel, by a 4-3 vote, declined to take up the case of Jason McGehee, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1996 kidnapping and murder of a teenager. The court did not offer an explanation for its ruling.

Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of the conservative southern state, has sparked controversy by announcing that the state plans to execute McGehee and seven other death row inmates over a 10-day period in April.

The accelerated schedule comes amid a shortage of death penalty drugs across the United States, with Arkansas's stock of midazolam, a sedative used to anesthetize inmates, nearing its expiration date.

Arkansas has not executed any prisoners since 2005, and no state has carried out eight executions in 10 days since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The eight inmates have joined another death row prisoner in challenging state authorities' protocol for lethal injections.

There are concerns that midazolam does not bring about sufficient unconsciousness in detainees, who may in fact suffer severe pain while being executed.

Two of the prisoners are set to be executed on April 17, two on April 20, two on April 24 and two, including McGehee, on April 27.

The prisoners' joint lawyer John Williams on Thursday denounced the "dangerous" timetable for the executions, which increased the "risk of substantial harm already present" in the lethal injection protocol.

"The compressed execution schedule, asking an unpracticed staff to administer this protocol twice a day for four execution days in rapid succession, creates an extreme risk of harm and botched executions," Williams said.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 16, 2017

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