Sunday 19 November 2017

Lawyers vow to overturn court order preventing expedition of death row executions

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)
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Lawyers for a US state which had planned to carry out seven executions in the space of 10 days due to the expiry of a lethal drug have vowed to overturn court orders preventing the executions from happening.

Officials in Arkansas were due to begin the killings of the seven men on death row today, April 17.

Midazolam, a drug which is used in the lethal injection, is set to expire at the end of this month, prompting the rush to carry out so many executions.

A judge ruled that use of the drug might expose the prisoners to pain before their death - in violation of the US constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

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

This has resulted in pharmacies discontinuing the drug.

The state's attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, has appealed against the court's decision.

He said: "We do have a number of pieces of litigation that we are working (on).

"Attorneys are working around the clock and committed to upholding and defending the rule of law, seeing these executions carried out, seeing justice for the families of those victims."

Speaking to, Vice chairperson of the Irish Innocence Project at Griffith College, Dr Edward Mathews, condemned the expedition of the executions.

"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.

"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, he added "one worries because they will find another way to implement the death penalty."

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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