Monday 24 July 2017

'Disgusting and inhumane' - Irish Innocence Project slams US state expediting death row executions

Executions being 'rushed' due to expiry of lethal drug

An execution chamber Photo: PA
An execution chamber Photo: PA
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

The Irish Innocence Project has described the expedition of the death penalty in a US state as "disgusting and inhumane".

Seven people are due to be executed in the space of ten days in Arkansas due to the fact a lethal drug Midazolam will expire on April 30.

Officials in Arkansas will begin the killings of the men on death row on April 17.

One of the inmates facing death, Ledell Lee, was convicted of murder 22 years ago but claims he is innocent.

The move came as Arkansas' supply of Midazolam is set to expire at the end of the month.

The controversial drug has been used in a number of botched executions in recent years, with people's deaths lasting hours.

Seven inmates have been scheduled to die at the prison in Arkansas this month (AP/Kelly P Kissel)
Seven inmates have been scheduled to die at the prison in Arkansas this month (AP/Kelly P Kissel)

This has resulted in pharmacies discontinuing the drug - prompting Arkansas' rush to carry out the executions.

Vice chairperson of the Irish Innocence Project at Griffith College, Dr Edward Mathews, has condemned the actions.

"138 people have been released from death row in the US following a review of their convictions, it is something which has been used to kill innocent people in the past," Mr Mathews told Independent.ie.

"The death penalty is a racist instrument, it is an instrument that has been used against people that are intellectually disabled and it is a grotesque exercise of state power. It is, quite frankly, disgusting and inhumane.

"This is an issue which would resonate in Ireland because in the last year, we had the first ever presidential pardon for a person executed in this state. The Irish Innocence Project, along with the family of Harry Gleeson, worked to achieve this. To think that this is still happening in 2017 is both heart-wrenching and disgusting."

Mr Mathews said that while it is a good thing the drug is being discontinued, "one worries because they will find another way to implement the death penalty."

Lawyers for the men facing death have began presenting a collective case to try instate a permanent block on the killings which they denounce as "execution by assembly line."

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said the action is "necessary" to fulfil the requirement of the law.

Eight inmates had been scheduled to die but Jason McGehee was granted a stay of execution as he was re-sentenced to life in prison.

The seven men facing the death penalty are: Bruce Earl Ward, Don Williams Davis, Stacey Eugene Johnson, Jack Harold Jones, Marcel Willliams and Kenneth Williams.

A total number of 3,117 people were sentenced to death in 55 countries in 2016.

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