death penalty

The Department of Justice has scheduled executions for five federal inmates in December and January, including Daniel Lewis Lee, convicted in 1999 of murdering a family in Pope County, Arkansas. The executions are to be the first by the U.S. government since 2003.

Lee’s execution, set for Dec. 9, is to be the first of the five and was ordered by U.S. Attorney General William Barr to adopt an addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol.

Wendell Griffen
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

An Arkansas judge who participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug wants state Supreme Court justices to disqualify themselves from hearing his request to handle execution-related cases again.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death penalty demonstration in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in April 2017.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

An ethics complaint has been dismissed against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen for taking part in a death penalty demonstration in April 2017 on the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug. Now Griffen is demanding he be given back the power to consider death penalty cases.

Little Rock federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal trial is underway with a group of Arkansas death row inmates challenging the state’s use of a sedative which is the first of three drugs used in the current lethal injection protocol. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that midazolam is not effective in fully knocking prisoners unconscious before the lethal drugs are administered, causing an unnecessary amount of pain. An attorney for the state said the inmates can’t prove its use is unconstitutional.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

The state Senate on Monday easily approved a bill that would further veil the confidentiality of the lethal drugs used to execute Arkansas inmates on death row.

Under Senate Bill 464 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, the legislature would give the state Department of Corrections broad powers to conceal the state’s method of capital punishment and ability to acquire the drugs necessary for lethal injection. The bill was approved by a vote of 25-9 strictly along party lines with one lawmaker, Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, voting present.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

A bill that would bar Arkansas prosecutors from seeking the death penalty for those convicted of a crime and with a diagnosed serious mental illness failed in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

According to the legislation, qualifying medical conditions would include symptoms of delusions, hallucinations, extremely disorganized thinking, and mania.

Leslie Rutledge
Governor's Office

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says she will likely ask the governor to set an execution date for a convicted killer after a ruling by the state Supreme Court.

On Thursday the high court said two inmates – who came within hours of being executed last year – were not entitled to special assistance from mental health professionals during their trials.

Bruce Ward and Don Davis won last minute stays after claiming independent psychiatrists should have been available to help develop trial strategies.

One of the three drugs Arkansas uses in its death chamber is about to expire, and unless the state can find a new supply it won't be able to execute three men with 11th-hour appeals pending at the state Supreme Court.

Arkansas rushed to execute eight men over 11 days last year, before 160 vials of a sedative expired. Ultimately, Arkansas put four men to death over eight days last April.

The state's supply of vecuronium bromide expires Thursday. It stops the inmates' breathing while a third drug used stops their hearts.

Office of the Governor

35 men on Arkansas’s death row are now closer than anyone in the state has been in years to receiving a lethal injection. Governor Asa Hutchinson told reporters on Thursday he could soon begin scheduling execution dates. 

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson says the state is reviewing drug options for lethal injections following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Monday morning.

The court ruled 5-4 to allow Oklahoma to continue to use Midazolam, a sedative that inmates had argued may not prevent pain in lethal injections because it is not a barbiturate.

Hutchinson spoke to press at the Capitol shortly after the ruling.