Judge blocks in­mate’s ex­e­cu­tion

Or­ders pe­riod for clemency hear­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON This ar­ti­cle was based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

A fed­eral judge on Thurs­day blocked the ex­e­cu­tion of one of the eight Ar­kan­sas in­mates sched­uled to die this month, and left open the pos­si­bil­ity that an­other man could have his death sen­tence de­layed be­fore the ex­e­cu­tions be­gin April 17.

U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge D. Price Mar­shall Jr. ruled in fa­vor of 40-year-old Ja­son McGe­hee, say­ing the state must pro­vide a 30-day com­ment pe­riod fol­low­ing the Ar­kan­sas Pa­role Board’s rec­om­men­da­tion of clemency, which was an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

McGe­hee’s ex­e­cu­tion had been sched­uled for April 27.

The pa­role board is slated to hear a clemency pe­ti­tion Fri­day from in­mate Jack Jones, who also could have his ex­e­cu­tion pushed back if the board rules in his fa­vor.

At the same time, the judge re­fused to stop the ex­e­cu­tion by lethal in­jec­tion of five of the convicted mur­der­ers, say­ing they had failed to show that the ac­cel­er­ated timetable in­fringed on their con­sti­tu­tional rights.

Ar­kan­sas Gov. Asa Hutchin­son ap­proved Feb. 27 the eight ex­e­cu­tions in 10 days in or­der to fit them in be­fore one of the three drugs used in the lethal­in­jec­tion pro­to­col ex­pires April 30.

The ex­e­cu­tions are slated to run from April 17 to April 27, with two in­mates sched­uled to be put to death per day over four days un­til McGe­hee was re­moved from the timetable.

McGe­hee was convicted in 1997 in the tor­ture and stran­gu­la­tion of 15-year-old Johnny Mel­bourne Jr.

The state has been un­able to ex­e­cute any pris­on­ers since 2005 as a re­sult of a lengthy court bat­tle over the Ar­kan­sas death penalty pro­to­col, but was cleared Feb. 21 af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court de­nied a pe­ti­tion filed by in­mates.

Judd Deere, spokesman for Ar­kan­sas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge, said in a state­ment that Ms. Rut­ledge would con­tinue to fight to al­low the state to carry out the ex­e­cu­tion sched­ule, which crit­ics have blasted as an “as­sem­bly line.”

“The victims’ fam­i­lies have waited far too long to see jus­tice for their loved ones, and to­day’s de­ci­sion from Judge Mar­shall al­lows all but one of the sched­uled ex­e­cu­tions to move for­ward,” Mr. Deere said. “At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rut­ledge will re­spond to any and all chal­lenges that might oc­cur be­tween now and the ex­e­cu­tions as the pris­on­ers con­tinue to use all avail­able means to de­lay their law­ful sen­tences.”

The eight ex­e­cu­tions would have rep­re­sented the most over a 10-day pe­riod since the death penalty was re­in­stated in 1976, ac­cord­ing to the Death Penalty In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter.

The Ar­kan­sas Coali­tion to Abol­ish the Death Penalty is plan­ning to hold a rally April 14 at the state capi­tol in Lit­tle Rock call­ing on the gov­er­nor to halt the ex­e­cu­tions.

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