Attorney General Dustin McDaniel spoke to the state’s sheriffs in Fort Smith this morning and dipped his toe into a potentially huge and emotional topic — the death penalty.
Exhale. McDaniel is not calling for abolition of the death penalty.
But McDaniel told the sheriffs that our execution process is “completely broken.”
Challenges to lethal injection have become a whole new federal court legal industry. There’s no real prospect of executing anyone by injection in Arkansas for probably years to come.
The approved drugs aren’t available. Other suitable drugs haven’t been found and cleared. Or else they must be administered by physicians. Physicians won’t perform executions.
So the process languishes. McDaniel has staff members working on death cases who’ll retire before anyone is executed. No one should be angered at the governor for refusing to set executions that won’t be carried out. Nor should they blame the attorney general for failing to put more men (and they are currently all men) down more quickly.
McDaniel will release a statement on all this shortly. He wants a conversation by the legislature and the people.
Given problems with lethal injection, do they want an alternative, more brutal method — electric chair, gas chamber, firing squad? Probably not, but if so, let them say so by referendum. Is it worth talking about an end to the death penalty, which is extravagantly more expensive than simply locking someone up for life (and, some might argue, death is more merciful than a lifetime in a maximum security isolation cell.)
The Arkansas Times favors abolition of the death penalty. 1) It doesn’t deter capital crime. 2) It is impossible to rectify execution of innocent people. 3) It is discriminatory, with black people more likely to be executed. It is particularly discriminatory against poor people, who can’t afford adequate counsel. 4) It prolongs the anguish of victims’ families. 5) Allowing the state to kill people on a somewhat random basis (widely different approaches depending on prosecutorial district) is troubling for any number of reasons. Many states and many western countries have opted to opt out.
McDaniel didn’t offer solutions today. But he did suggest new discussions. I fear that the eve of an election season will only encourage the reflexive reaction from Republican and Democratic candidates alike, but particularly Republicans. But perhaps there are some thoughtful people among them who’ll acknowledge that our system is broken and that the usual bloodthirsty commentary — though popular on a surface level — isn’t particularly insightful or constructive.
UPDATE: Here are McDaniel’s prepared remarks. He outlines possibilities — from alternative execution to abolition to a court ruling that the death penalty was unconstitutional. He throws it open for debate.
His closing follows:
I believe that the majority of Arkansans, if polled, would say they support the death penalty. However, I would be surprised if the majority of Arkansans would support the death penalty if they knew the only methods of carrying it out are a firing squad, the gas chamber or an electric chair.
I think that most people would find those methods to be too barbaric for a civilized society.
I think that it is high time for a new debate on what to do about the death penalty.
18 states have abolished the death penalty. The voters of Arkansas can certainly choose that route. The legislature may choose to abolish the death penalty. The voters or legislature may decide to change methods of execution, recognizing that lethal injection sounds acceptable but is a legal fallacy.
If the Arkansas Supreme Court decides to abolish the death penalty by declaring it unconstitutional, I’d acknowledge that that would be an acceptable use of their power.
But none of these things are happening and without pressure from the people, none of them will. Rather, we have our current situation, which I strongly oppose.
I am opposed to the courts and drug manufacturers continuing to neutralize our death penalty through the imposition of practical hurdles that cannot be overcome.
You are key leaders in our law enforcement community. We must be frank about this situation, and, if we don’t like what we hear, we need to go about the business of trying to change it.
OCTOBER 9, 2012 http://www.theweek.co.uk/
THE REPUBLICAN Party in Arkansas has withdrawn its financial support from three state legislature candidates who have variously advocated the death penalty for children and called for the deportation of all Muslims from America, described slavery as a “blessing in disguise” for Africans and labeled Abraham Lincoln a “war criminal”.
Candidate Charlie Fuqua and two sitting representatives, Jon Hubbard and Loy Mauch, have been cut off because of their radical beliefs, many of which have been branded as offensive by their own party.
In a book, God’s Law: The Only Political Solution, Fuqua claims there was “no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States”.
And, as the Arkansas Times reports, that is not the only eye-catching policy in God’s Law. He also advocates execution for children, arguing: “A child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society.” However, he is aware of the severity of the punishment and stresses: “The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly.”
Fuqua also suggests setting the minimum wage at zero and argues that people should only serve two years in prison. If they are not rehabilitated within that time, they should be executed, he says
Fuqua has lost his funding, but Arkansas Times blogger Max Bentley notes: “No party official has demanded money back or urged Fuqua to withdraw from the race. Majority control of the legislature is far too important for Republicans to abandon a candidate, no matter how extreme. Which tells you a little something about Republican majority governance.”
The Guardian’s George Monbiot is just one of those who has expressed shock at Fuqua’s remarks on Twitter, writing: “Ye gods! Republican candidate calls for death penalty for children who disrespect their parents.”
But Fuqua’s views are not the only ones drawing ire. Jon Hubbard, who has been a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives since 2010, has also caused outrage. In 2009 he self-published a book, Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative, which argued that slavery was a “blessing in disguise”. “Would an existence spent in slavery have been any crueler than a life spent in sub-Saharan Africa?” he pondered.
He also noted that despite the deaths of millions during centuries of slavery, there was a silver lining. “The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth”.
The third candidate to cause upset is Loy Mauch, who has also held his seat since 2010. Local radio station Kait8 reported: “Mauch called Abraham Lincoln a war criminal and defended slavery in dozens of letters to a Little Rock newspaper.” In 2007 he described Lincoln as a “neurotic Northern war criminal” in a letter to the Little Rock Democrat-Gazette and in 2009 asked: “If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it”? ·
June 26, 2012 Source : http://arkansasnews.com
Arkansas can continue to sentence killers to death, but can’t execute them, thanks to a 5-2 state Supreme Court ruling Friday that declared the Arkansas Method of Execution Act was unconstitutional.
Executions haven’t been happening anyway. Arkansas hasn’t carried out a death sentence since 2005, when Eric Randall Nance paid the ultimate penalty for murdering an 18-year-old Malvern cheerleader in October 1993. An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article said Nance had come upon Julie Heath standing beside her broken-down car alongside U.S. 270.
He stabbed her in the throat with a box cutter. The state was kinder to him, using a lethal injection of sodium pentathol.
Since then the convicted killers on Arkansas’ Death Row, with the help of their lawyers, have managed to delay justice.
Their latest success came in a lawsuit filed jointly by 10 killers against the Arkansas Department of Correction challenging a 2009 law that had been passed by the General Assembly in an attempt to correct deficiencies cited in a previous lawsuit over the lethal injection process.
Five members of the court agreed that in the 2009 law the Legislature “abdicated its responsibility” by giving the Department of Correction too much discretion to decide how to carry out lethal injections, thus violating the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.
The law specifies that the death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection of “one or more chemicals, as determined in kind and amount in the discretion of the director of the Department of Correction.” The 10 killers offered a litany of other charges, just in case something else worked better, but that’s the one the court found most compelling.
One of the killer’s lawyer, Jeff Rosenzweig of Little Rock, told a reporter that there was nothing in the law to prevent the director “from using rat poison or Drano or whatever to do an execution.”
He knows that’s a ludicrous suggestion because the U.S. Supreme Court would quickly rule rat poison to be “cruel and unusual.” Perhaps the state should go back to using the electric chair instead of messing with drugs, which seem to offer all sorts of avenues for delay.
In a well-reasoned dissent, Associate Justice Karen R. Baker pointed out that the “separation of powers” argument had previously been rejected in similar death penalty challenges in Texas, Delaware, Idaho and Florida, all of which had assigned responsibility for determining the procedures to the relevant administrative agency.
Separation of powers in American government is intended to prevent one branch from usurping the powers of another by establishing a series of checks and balances. There cannot and should not be a wall between the three branches. The state Supreme Court, for example, did not consider it a violation when ordering the Legislature to change its method of financing public schools.
While the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Jim Gunter specifically said the court was not suggesting “what modifications to the statute would pass constitutional muster,” the decision did just that. The Legislature clearly must specify what drugs will be used to carry out lethal injections administered to convicted killers.
Lest we forget, the guilt of these 10 men was not contested. Following, from court records and news reports, are their crimes.
• Jack Harold Jones Jr., in 1995 raped and murdered a Bald Knob bookkeeper, Mary Phillips, and beat her 11-year-old daughter so severely that police first thought she was dead.
• Jason Farrell McGehee was one of three men who kidnapped, tortured, beat, strangled and burned John Melbourne to death in 1996 after accusing the 15-year-old of snitching on them for stealing.
• Bruce Earl Ward in 1989 attempted to rape and then strangled an 18-year-old Little Rock convenience store clerk, Rebecca Lynn Doss. He had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the 1977 strangulation of a woman in Pennsylvania.
• Marcel Williams was convicted in the 1994 rape and murder of Stacy Errickson, 22, after kidnapping her from a Jacksonville convenience store, where the mother of two had stopped to get gas.
• Frank Williams Jr., fired by Clyde Spence in 1992 from a farm job , came back and killed Spence.
• Terrick T. Nooner, while robbing a Little Rock laundromat in 1993, shot to death a college student, Scot Stobaugh, 23.
• Kenneth Williams was convicted in 1999 of murdering a Lincoln County farmer, Cecil Boren, 57, after Williams escaped from the Cummins Unit prison. In 1998 he had kidnapped a couple from a restaurant where they had stopped for lunch after church. He robbed and shot both of them. Dominique Hurd, 19, a University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff cheerleader, died; her boyfriend survived.
• Don W. Davis was sentenced to death for the 1990 execution-style slaying of Jane Daniel, 62, of Rogers. He also stole various items, including jewelry, from her home and was first scheduled for execution in 1999.
• Alvin Bernal Jackson, already in prison for the 1990 murder of Charles Colclasure and attempted killing of two other people, got the death penalty after stabbing prison guard Scott Grimes to death with a homemade knife in 1995.
• Stacy Eugene Johnson in 1993 stripped, beat, strangled and slit the throat of Carol Jean Health, 26, at her De Queen apartment while her 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son hid in a closet.
The Supreme Court justices need to figure out how to carry out the responsibilities of the judicial branch and administer justice to these men.
June 22, 2012 Source : http://articles.chicagotribune.com
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) – The Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday ruled unconstitutional the law allowing the state to carry out the death penalty, siding with 10 Death Row inmates who argued that only the legislature, and not the prison system, can decide the method of execution.
The ruling effectively barred the state from carrying out the death penalty. Arkansas has 40 men on Death Row but the state has not executed anyone since November 28, 2005, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Death Row inmate Jack Harold Jones against Ray Hobbs, the director of the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Jones, who was later joined in the suit by nine other inmates, argued that a 2009 law giving the department and its director authority to choose the drugs administered in executing inmates by lethal injection violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.
The court decided on a 5 to 2 vote that the legislature had improperly given the prison system “unfettered” discretion over execution procedures.
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, said through his spokeswoman that he will consider what steps to take next.
“The death penalty is still the law in Arkansas, but the Department of Correction now has no legal way to carry out an execution until a new statute is established,” spokeswoman Stacey Hall said in an email response.
“He will review what the options are, talk to the Attorney General, key legislative leaders, and will study the way other states have handled these rulings,” Hall said. “He hopes to have a proposed remedy in the next few months.”
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, also a Democrat, said he respected the court’s decision and would consult with various parties to decide how to move forward.
In 2009, the legislature gave the director of the prison system the choice of one or more drugs to carry out death sentences. The law stated that if lethal injection is found unconstitutional, electrocution would be used.
But as a result of the state Supreme Court ruling, the legislature will need to draft and pass a new death penalty statute. It is unclear whether the law will now revert to a 1983 statute that was enacted when the state opted to use lethal injection, though that law also was challenged.
In a dissent to Friday’s majority ruling, two justices said the prison system had to follow constitutional restrictions against cruel and unusual punishment in administering the death penalty. Other states give their prison systems leeway, the dissenting justices said.
METHOD AT ISSUE
Thirty-three U.S. states have the death penalty. Disputes over the method of execution has become a hurdle to carrying out death sentences in some states, notably California and Maryland, said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center.
June 21, 2012 Source : http://thecabin.net
LITTLE ROCK — A federal appeals panel Thursday partially reversed a federal judge’s denial of the appeal of an Arkansas death-row inmate.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis sent Ray Dansby’s appeal back to the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Arkansas for new proceedings.
Dansby was convicted of two counts of capital murder and sentenced to die for the Aug. 24, 1992, fatal shooting of his ex-wife, Brenda Dansby, and her boyfriend, Ronnie Kimble, at Brenda Dansby’s home in El Dorado. Witnesses testified they saw Dansby shoot both victims.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court upheld the dismissal of some of Ray Dansby’s claims on appeal Thursday but reversed the dismissal of two claims. The panel did not address the merits of those claims but said the federal judge’s reasons for dismissing them were erroneous.
Among the witnesses who testified at Dansby’s trial was his former cellmate, Larry McDuffie. The trial judge allowed Dansby’s lawyer to ask McDuffie if prosecutors had offered him leniency in exchange for his testimony, but the judge did not allow other questions about McDuffie’s past dealings with prosecutors.
Dansby argued on appeal that he should have been allowed to try to show that McDuffie was biased by his past dealings with prosecutors. A federal district judge dismissed that claim, saying Dansby had failed to raise the point in state court before raising it in federal court.
In its opinion Thursday, the 8th Circuit said Dansby specifically referenced the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment in a brief to the Arkansas Supreme Court, so the district judge’s ruling that Dansby had not previously raised the claim was in error.
The 8th Circuit also overturned a ruling by the district judge that Dansby’s claim of prosecutorial misconduct — he alleged that prosecutors withheld evidence regarding the credibility of McDuffie — was procedurally faulty. The appeals court said the district judge reached this conclusion without allowing either side to present arguments on the issue.
“The parties were not afforded adequate notice and opportunity to be heard on the issue of procedural default,” Judge Steven Colloton wrote in the 8th Circuit’s opinion.