Tuesday 19 November 2019

Judge blocks execution of one of eight condemned Arkansas prisoners

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

A judge has blocked the execution of one of eight prisoners Arkansas was planning to put to death this month.

But District Judge D Price Marshall Jr said at least five of the executions could go ahead even though he found that the state broke some rules and policies.

Judge Marshall ruled in favour of Jason McGehee, 40, a day after the Arkansas Parole Board recommended Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson grant him clemency.

Judge Marshall said the state must allow for a 30-day comment period that will last until after a key execution drug expires on April 30.

The judge said he might also rule in favour of inmate Jack Jones if the Parole Board approves his clemency petition on Friday.

Judge Marshall said that in the case of five other inmates, no violation tipped the scales of justice. He refused to halt their executions.

The rulings came in a lawsuit filed by some of the prisoners that challenges Mr Hutchinson's decision to conduct four double executions this month.

The inmates argue the unprecedented execution schedule infringes on their right to complete hearings on clemency requests.

The first double execution is set for April 17. Only Texas has executed that many inmates in a month, doing it twice in 1997. Seven executions in a month would still be a record for Arkansas.

Prosecutors say McGehee, who had just turned 20, directed the 1996 fatal assault of Johnny Melbourne Jr, a 15-year-old who had told police about a northern Arkansas theft ring.

In voting 6-1 in favour of McGehee's clemency request, the Parole Board considered letters and testimony from the judge from McGehee's trial, a former Correction Department chief, members of McGehee's family and the victim's father.


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