Arkansas Death Penalty News

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September 24, 2009, 07:50:04 PM Last Edit: September 24, 2009, 07:53:05 PM by Jeff1857
ST. LOUIS - An attorney for four Arkansas death row inmates who are challenging the state's lethal injection procedure told a federal appeals court panel Thursday that even with new methods in place, the process can cause pain and suffering.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case filed on behalf of convicted killers Don William Davis, Jack Harold Jones Jr., Terrick Nooner and Frank Williams Jr.

Other death penalty states are watching the outcome, which isn't expected for several weeks. In fact, an attorney for Missouri death row inmate Reginald Clemons was in court to observe. The issue also drew attention earlier this month after a failed attempt to execute an inmate in Ohio.

Lethal injection had been on hold across the country until a Supreme Court ruling last year in a case out of Kentucky about whether the three-drug combination used in executions causes unconstitutional pain and suffering. Roughly three dozen states use the combination -- an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart.

After that ruling, Arkansas prison officials introduced new procedures. Joe Cordi of the Arkansas Attorney General's office told the panel the new protocol is thorough in trying to ensure that the inmate doesn't suffer.

But the attorney for the inmates, Scott Braden, said concerns remain both about the written procedures and how they would be carried out, especially because Arkansas has a history of botched executions.

In January 1992, 40-year-old Rickey Ray Rector could be heard groaning for almost 20 minutes before workers pulled back the curtain shielding the execution chamber. An autopsy found 10 puncture marks where the execution team tried to insert IV lines, and showed that executioners likely cut into muscle on his right arm to find a vein.

Arkansas' new protocol calls for executioners to check condemned inmates for fluttering eyelids and shake them to ensure that they are unconscious before delivering the two final drugs.

While the written protocol does not specify that a doctor be part of the IV team, Cordi told the panel he would advise the state Department of Corrections to have a physician present.

Cordi said the state will examine inmates in the days prior to executions to make sure a suitable vein is found, most likely in the arm. Still, the new procedure does allow for execution room "incisions," which Braden questioned.

"It's not a clinical setting," Braden said. "It's on an execution table in a concrete room in a prison system."

The process of making incisions in the execution room could itself be painful, Braden said, and could also call into question whether the lethal drugs are administered properly.

"If the IV isn't established correctly, the inmate suffers excruciating pain with the two lethal chemicals," he said after the hearing. "You, in a sense, drown."

Arkansas has not conducted an execution since 2005, but the appeals court case and another lawsuit by Williams before the state Supreme Court are the last legal challenges. Forty men are on death row, and chief deputy attorney general Justin Allen said that once the Williams case is resolved his office will begin seeking execution dates.

Legal challenges remain in other states as well.

In Missouri, Clemons' lawsuit claims the state has not shown that it can carry out lethal injection procedures correctly. Clemons was scheduled to die in June, but the 8th Circuit granted an indefinite stay without giving a reason.

In Ohio, a federal judge issued a temporary reprieve this month for an inmate after executioners couldn't find a usable vein for the IV line. Inmate Romell Broom, who wept during the procedure, later said he was stuck with needles as many as 18 times.

heidi salazar

Appeals court says Arkansas' death penalty process is constitutional

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A federal appeals court upheld Arkansas' lethal injection procedure. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis finds the procedure is designed "to avoid the needless infliction of pain, not to cause it."

The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by three death-row inmates, including two who are scheduled to die over the next nine weeks. Terrick Nooner, Don Williams and Jack Jones Jr. challenged the constitutionality of Arkansas' execution procedures.

The appeals court ruled Monday that Arkansas' three-drug protocol is "substantially similar to, and perhaps even more thorough than," a Kentucky procedure upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jones is scheduled to die on March 16 for the death of a bookkeeper from Bald Knob, and has a clemency hearing set for Tuesday.


Officials: Latest execution stay won't last

By: Associated Press - Texarkana Gazette

Published: 04/15/2010

LITTLE ROCK--Five Arkansas death row inmates have had what Attorney General Dustin McDaniel considers a full round of appeals, and despite court challenges to the state's lethal injection procedure and other issues, he says they may soon be scheduled for execution.

Convicted killer Don W. Davis was within six hours of dying Monday when the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a halt to preparations so a judge could consider the rules on lethal injection -- making him the latest in a series of death row inmates to get such a reprieve.

Four of them, also convicted killers, are claiming that the Legislature improperly shifted part of its authority to the executive branch when it agreed to let the Correction Department change lethal injection protocols.

McDaniel has asked that the suit be dismissed so the executions can proceed, and expressed confidence this week that the latest execution stay will not last. No hearings have yet been scheduled in the suit the Supreme Court sent back to Judge Tim Fox.

The five that could be next affected are Frank Williams Jr., who filed the suit last May, and Jack Harold Jones Jr., Davis and condemned inmate Stacey Eugene Johnson, who have filed to intervene. Inmate Bruce Earl Ward is not listed among those joining the suit.

McDaniel's office regards the appeals of Davis, Jones, Johnson, Ward and Williams as having run their course, said attorney general's spokesman Aaron Sadler. He said that if and when any stays are lifted, McDaniel will ask Gov. Mike Beebe to set execution dates.

Federal public defenders in Arkansas, as a policy, don't discuss cases for attribution and didn't return calls for comment. Jeff Rosenzweig, a private attorney who filed the state court challenge for Williams, didn't respond to a request for comment.

Since resuming executions in 1976, Arkansas has executed 27 death row inmates. The most recent was in 2005. Jones was to have been executed on March 16, but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay. Johnson is scheduled for execution on May 4, but he is expected to receive a stay as well. The attorney general's office is researching Ward's case to see if there is any impediment to seeking an execution date.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away Ward's request for his case to be reviewed.

"Unless there is a specific stay in place for any inmate, we expect to proceed normally toward requests that the governor set execution dates," Sadler said.

While the 8th Circuit has since ruled the law valid, the Arkansas Supreme Court says the suit must be decided in state court because of the claim that the law defies the Arkansas Constitution.

The lawsuit argues that the Legislature overstepped its bounds when it passed a law allowing the state Correction Department director to change the drugs or steps involved in an execution. It had previously been up to the Legislature to approve any changes.

Williams' lawsuit also argues that under the present structure, it could be impossible for an inmate to know about -- and thus contest -- any changes to the execution method because they could be made at the last minute, without notice.

While the Correction Department's emergency procedures are exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act, spokeswoman Dina Tyler said the department provides information about the drugs and the procedures for execution to each death row inmate.

Tyler said the department needs flexibility in case one of the chemicals used in lethal injections became unavailable, was improved or a more effective substitute emerged. Without the law change, Tyler said executions would have to be halted until the Legislature could change the protocols.

The Legislature also approved changes last year that require a minimum level of training for the medical personnel involved in an execution, including the person who sets the needle in the inmate's arm. The change was recommended after a case in Kentucky revealed some cases of botched attempts.

"I think the department is doing everything the right way, and I think the outcome will be favorable (to the Correction Department)," Tyler said.





Arkansas latest state to turn over execution drug

Arkansas has become the latest state to surrender its supply of a key lethal-injection drug from a British supplier amid legal questions about how the drug was obtained.

Arkansas Corrections Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler said Thursday the state recently turned over its supply of sodium thiopental to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. State officials received the drug from the London company Dream Pharma.

The sedative is part of a three-drug cocktail used during executions. It's been hard to come by since its sole U.S. manufacturer stopped making it, which prompted Arkansas and several other states to turn to overseas suppliers.

That resulted in legal questions about whether states circumvented the law to get the drug.

The DEA seized Georgia's supply in March, and later took supplies in Kentucky and Tennessee.

(source: Associated Press)

No problem...  Pentobarbital here we come... 



THV Extra: Inside Arkansas' death row

10:40 AM, Nov 2, 2011

Written by Ashley Blackstone

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Death by hanging, electric chair, lethal injection. The methods used for Capital Punishment in Arkansas have obviously changed over the years. Over the next two nights, THV's Ashley Blackstone will take an in-depth look.

We'll show you everything from the inmates' living conditions, to an update on why all executions have been stopped, plus we'll have a timeline of what happens on that final day of life.

We will also speak with a member of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (2).

There's not a concrete number, but its estimated that at least 500 people have been put to death in the state since the 1820's.

Right now, 40 men (1) sit on death row waiting for to be executed.

Here is the race breakdown:

20 Black Males

16 White Males

1 Hispanic Man

Roger Coulter, 52, has been on death row the longest, 22 years. He was sentenced back in 1989 in Ashley County for raping and killing a 5-year-old girl.

Jason Taylor, 27, is the inmate with the shortest time served. His sentence came back in 2009 after he shot a man to death and dumping his body in Saline County.

THV's Ashley Blackstone tonight begins her four part series on the Death Penalty in Arkansas. It all starts tonight on "Today's THV at 6:00" and

Other links : (1)








Arkansas Death Penalty: Execution Day

10:38 PM, Nov 3, 2011

Written by Ashley Blackstone

GRADY, AR (KTHV) -- It's your last day to live. You've known this day is coming for years, so it's no surprise and you've been able to mentally prepare to an extent. What are your thoughts? Do you want a last meal? A final conversation? It's an experience dozens of people have gone through here in Arkansas.

Just over the railroad tracks, across from Varner Supermax Prison is a resting place for hundreds of Arkansans. It's a graveyard. Loved ones buried by family. But for others, they have no loved ones; at least no one who claimed their body.

For example, Ronald Gene Simmons, a Vietnam vet who killed 14 family members in Pope County in 1987. He was executed by the state and buried by the state.

But long before a burial, an execution day is set. Most often, there are years of mental preparation.

Some are ready. Rickey Newman says, "I don't know why I haven't been put to death yet?"

Others are far from ready. "Absolutely you are scared," explains Don Davis in 2007.

It's November 2005, the last execution in Arkansas. It's the final month of 45-year-old Eric Nance's life. He was convicted of raping and murdering a Malvern teenager in 1993. Julie Heath's throat was slashed with a box cutter.

Her cousin Johnnie Hood says, "Julie was just a beautiful girl that always smiled."

These weeks, everything from when Nance wakes up, to who he calls, to what he eats is methodically planned by the Department of Correction. Counseling starts weeks in advance. The inmate is learns step by step what will happen on execution day.

Spokesperson Dina Tyler says, "It's a busy time."

And it's quite the opposite of an inmate's normal days in solitary confinement.

She adds, "What is fixing to happen is obviously monumental." And they have to be prepared for it emotionally.

Prior to the execution, the inmate is transferred from death row at Varner Supermax to a quiet cell immediately next to the execution chamber at nearby Cummins Unit.

Then, the day comes.Family and friends are now restricted, only a lawyer and spiritual advisor can meet with Nance- in a special visitation room.

Around 4 p.m. his final meal is served. He asks for wwo Bacon Cheeseburgers, french fries, two pints of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and two cokes.

On execution day in 2005, Tyler told THV, "He has gotten calmer as it has gotten closer to the execution time. He has been in relatively good spirits considering the gravity of the situation."

It's now 9:24, the white curtain opens and Nance is lying on a gurney
A white sheet covers him from his neck to his feet. Thirty people are watching; members of the media, the victim's family, and prison officials. He's given the chance for any last words, but no answer.

Three people can stop his death including the governor, Department of Correction Director, or a judge, but no call comes.

The lethal injection process then starts, injecting a cocktail of drugs into Nance.
Six Minutes later the coroner pronounces him dead.

Hood says, "I guess it brings closure that he's gone. But, you know, we thought this would make things better as far as him being gone. That's good, but it will never bring back Julie."

This schedule is pretty much the same for all inmates on execution day.

Dina Tyler says it is a difficult time for the multiple agencies involved. As for a cost of executions, she says it's a question they get often.

She adds, "We never knew where to draw the line. There was never a logical stopping point. Plus, we have been reluctant to figure an amount because how to you put a price on a life?"

Back over the railroad tracks, the cemetery will not be getting an extra grave this day. Nance will be buried elsewhere. But as surely as Arkansas' death row continues, one day another will be added.







Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down execution law

The Associated Press

Friday, June 22, 2012 | 7:44 a.m.

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state's execution law Friday, calling it unconstitutional.

In a split decision, the high court sided with 10 death row inmates who argued that, under Arkansas' constitution, only the Legislature can set execution policy. Legislators in 2009 voted to give that authority to the Department of Correction.

"It is evident to this court that the Legislature has abdicated its responsibility and passed to the executive branch, in this case the (Arkansas Department of Correction), the unfettered discretion to determine all protocol and procedures, most notably the chemicals to be used, for a state execution," Justice Jim Gunter wrote in the majority opinion.

Two justices of the seven-member court dissented, arguing that the correction department's discretion is not "unfettered" because it is bound by the federal and state constitutions that guard against cruel and unusual punishment.

"In addition, Arkansas is left no method of carrying out the death penalty in cases where it has been lawfully imposed," Justice Karen Baker wrote in the dissent.

The 2009 law says a death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection of one or more chemicals that the director of the Department of Correction chooses. The law also says that in the event that the lethal injection law is found to be unconstitutional, death sentences will be carried out by electrocution.

It wasn't immediately clear what the court's ruling will mean for the 40 men on death row in Arkansas. There aren't any pending executions, and the state hasn't put anyone to death since 2005, in part because of legal challenges like this one.

Death row inmate Jack Harold Jones Jr. sued the head of the correction department in 2010. Nine other inmates later joined the suit, asking that the law be struck down.

The state, meanwhile, asked the court to free up several executions it had halted because of this lawsuit.

Josh Lee, an attorney for the death row inmates who challenged the law, declined to comment Friday.

During oral arguments last week, Lee said the state would have two options if the court found the law unconstitutional.

"The Legislature could either choose to stick with the 1983 statute, which everybody concedes is constitutional, or the Legislature could decide we want to amend it." Lee said last week.

A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The state adopted lethal injection as its method of capital punishment in 1983. There have been legal challenges to the way the state kills its condemned prisoners since then. In 2009, in the midst of a legal battle over lethal injection, the state Legislature passed the law that the court struck down Friday.

Joseph Cordi, an attorney for the state, told the Supreme Court last week that he thought the state would fall back on the 1983 law if the court struck down the entire 2009 statute.

Prisons spokeswoman Dina Tyler said Friday that she hasn't seen the ruling.
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It is also unclear whether or not that Arkansas will fall back to the death penalty law that was in effect in 1983 when lethal injection was first introduced in the state.  The pre-1983 statute required that executions be carried out by electrocution.  The statute in Arkansas requires that if lethal injection is ever to be held as being unconstitutional, then a death sentence shall be carried out by electrocution.


Two Southeast Arkansas men escape possible death sentences

Two Southeast Arkansas men escaped possible death sentences when they pleaded guilty to murder in separate, unrelated domestic murder cases.

In an eleventh hour plea deal on the steps of the Desha County Courthouse Tuesday, after the jury was empaneled, Marquis Ontrell Poole's defense attorney Steven Porch and 10th Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen reached a plea agreement in which the 27-year-old Dumas man would plead guilty to first-degree murder in the November 2011 shooting death of his 25-year-old girlfriend Amanda Madden.

In the plea agreement, Poole, who was charged with capital murder and faced a possible death sentence, was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

Poole shot Madden three times with a revolver in the kitchen of her mother's Dumas apartment. Madden's 6-year-old child was in the room where the shooting occurred.

Madden's mother, who was in the living room when the shooting occurred, told police she heard three gun shots then rushed to the kitchen where she saw her daughter lying on the floor.

"You shot my baby!" Madden's mother said to Poole, according to a Dumas police officer's testimony at Poole's first appearance hearing in November 2011.

The officer said Madden's mother told him that Poole responded, "(F_ _ _), your daughter."

Poole was sentenced to 40 years in prison with a 20-year enhancement for killing Madden in the presence of her 6-year-old child. He also received a 10-year sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The sentences will run consecutive, giving him a 70-year prison sentence. He will not be eligible for parole until July 7, 2053.

In a separate, unrelated murder, a 24-year-old Lake Village man pleaded guilty on November 9 to two counts of capital murder for the deaths of his two children and one count of attempted capital murder for the attempted murder of their mother, his former girlfriend.

Robert C. Carter Jr. received two life without parole sentences for the murder of 18-month-old Amoni Elasia Carter and 4-year-old Nekole Carter. He received a life sentence for the attempted murder of their mother Latasha Figures.

Carter was arrested in April 2011 after he allegedly drove a vehicle into the yard of a Dermott residence on Iowa Street where Latasha Figures, Carter's former girlfriend, and their two children lived.

As Carter drove into the yard on April 17, 2011, he is alleged to have struck and killed 18-month-old Amoni Elasia Carter and critically injured 4-year-old Nekole Carter, who later died at a Little Rock hospital. Figures, 25, was also injured.
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Prison officials seek fix to Arkansas execution law

11 December 2012

LITTLE ROCK -- Correction officials and the attorney general's office are trying to figure out how to rework Arkansas' lethal injection law after the state's top court threw the statute out earlier this year.

Deputy Attorney General Dennis Hansen told lawmakers Tuesday that a new lethal injection statute will need to be adopted in the coming legislative session, which begins Jan. 14.

Hansen and the Department of Correction director addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday after the Arkansas Supreme Court in June sided with death row inmates who said a 2009 execution law violated part of the state's constitution about separating the branches of government.

That law said death sentences are to be carried out by lethal injection of one or more chemicals that the director of the Department of Correction chooses.
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High court hears challenge from death-row inmate
Thursday, January 10, 2013, 3:45 p.m

LITTLE ROCK -- A lawyer for an Arkansas death-row inmate says the prisoner deserves a new hearing because of ineffective legal counsel leading up to his conviction and sentence.

Brandon Eugene Lacy's lawyer, Patrick Benca, told the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday that there were issues about Lacy's mental health that should have been brought up at trial.

An attorney for the state disagreed.

Lacy was sentenced to death in the slaying of 47-year-old Randall Walker. Walker's burned body was found in 2007.

Prosecutors say Lacy hit Walker on the head with a fireplace poker, stabbed him in the chest with a knife and then used gasoline and a lighter to set fire to his mobile home.

The high court did not say when it would issue a ruling on the case.
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High court to hear death-row inmate's case

LITTLE ROCK -- The Arkansas Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in the case of a death-row inmate who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old niece.

A lawyer for 44-year-old Karl Roberts is expected to ask the court Thursday to let him have a full round of post-conviction proceedings.

Roberts was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1999 slaying of 12-year-old Andria Nichole Brewer in Hatfield.

He initially waived his rights to appeal, but changed his mind hours before he was to be put to death during a planned double execution in 2004.

The state says the court should not reopen Roberts' post-conviction case.
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Legal challenges likely to delay Ark. executions
February 22, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas enacted a new lethal injection law this week, ending months in legal limbo after the state's top court threw out the old law last year.

However, with more legal challenges expected, the state is likely months away from killing a condemned prisoner for the first time since 2005.

The attorney general's office expects some of the state's 37 death row inmates to challenge the new law.

"We don't know when the inmates will choose to file their lawsuit, but we are prepared for them to file it and we will be ready when they do," Chief Deputy Attorney General Brad Phelps said.

Two days after Gov. Mike Beebe signed the new execution legislation into law, no new execution dates had been set on Friday, meaning the state doesn't have any pending executions. For that to change, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel would have to notify Beebe that inmates' court challenges have run their course and ask him to schedule executions.

Phelps, the chief deputy attorney general, would not say which of the eight inmates who have exhausted their appeals would be the first to have an execution date.

"I'm not prepared to commit who will be first or who will be last," Phelps said. "There are eight who are eligible to have their sentences carried out and we intend to work very diligently to make sure those are carried out."

The Arkansas Supreme Court in June deemed a 2009 lethal injection law unconstitutional, saying the Legislature had given the Department of Correction "unfettered discretion" to figure out the protocol and procedures for executions, including the chemicals to be used.

What Beebe signed Wednesday spells out in greater detail the procedures that must be followed. However, some lawmakers expressed concerns that the law fails to address issues that led the court to overturn the previous one.

The new law says the state must use a lethal dose of a barbiturate, but leaves it up to the Department of Correction to determine which drug. So far, that agency hasn't rushed into selecting a drug.
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Grinning Grim Reaper

State Senate Approves Changes in Arkansas Death Penalty Law

by Lance Turner

LITTLE ROCK - The state Senate has approved a bill that its sponsors claim will overcome the state Supreme Court's concerns about how Arkansas executes prisoners.

On a 33-0 vote, senators approved revisions to the state's injection procedures, including naming a chemical to be used. A 2009 law let the Correction Department director pick the drug. Justices threw out the law last year, saying the state constitution required the Legislature to make the decision.

Arkansas has not put anyone to death since 2005.

Of the 37 inmates on currently death row in Arkansas, eight men have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting execution, according to the attorney general - though more challenges are expected.

The Arkansas attorney general's office has filed a motion to lift stays of execution in place for six death-row inmates who have challenged the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection law.

The motion, filed last week in the Arkansas Supreme Court, wants stays lifted for Jack Jones, Marcel Williams, Jason McGhee, Don Davis, Bruce Ward and Stacey Johnson. The inmates have all exhausted their appeals.
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?


Death row inmates ask state's top court to hear case
Posted: March 19, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.

Several death row inmates are asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to hear their cases after the state's attorney general asked the court to lift their stays of executions.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel asked the state's top court to lift stays for six death row inmates who challenged the constitutionality of Arkansas' lethal injection law.

Attorneys for five of the inmates filed paperwork Monday asking the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in the case. The death row inmates' lawyers say the high court must determine whether a new lethal injection law addresses the court's concerns that led them to strike down a 2009 lethal injection law last year.

The Legislature enacted a new law this year that says the state must use a lethal dose of a barbiturate.
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