From [HERE] Nine Arkansas death row inmates, including eight scheduled for lethal injections next month, jointly filed suit [complaint, PDF] against Governor Asa Hutchinson [official website] [in photo above] and Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelly [official website] [also white] on Monday to stop the executions. The suit is in response to an Arkansas Supreme Court [official website] decision earlier this month that stated there was no stay in place [JURIST report] preventing the eight executions ordered by Hutchinson to be carried out in April over a period of 10 days [AP report]. The attorneys for the inmates stated that the compressed schedule [ArkansasOnline report] is in violation of the inmates' Eighth Amendment [text] rights and that the state prison policies denied effective representation of counsel.
The Arkansas death row population is 55% African American. [MORE] Blacks make up 15% of the state's population.
Arkansas judge rules executions can proceed. Also Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Tuesday dismissed [opinion] a complaint from eight individuals scheduled for executions in Arkansas next month. Griffen granted the state's motion to dismiss the amended complaint, finding that he had no jurisdiction over the matter after the state's Supreme Court reversed his previous ruling [JURIST report]. Griffen wrote:
As such, it is more than troubling, and more than shameful. It amounts to theft of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of this state and the Constitution of the United States to a trial. To think that the highest court in Arkansas would compel every other court in Arkansas to steal the last right condemned persons have to challenge the constitutionality of their execution illustrates the travesty of justice, and the damnable unfairness, this Court is powerless to prevent. [MORE]
The death penalty continues to be a point of contention across the United States. Last month the Mississippi house approved a bill [JURIST report] allowing firing squad executions. In January Ohio's lethal injection protocol was deemed [JURIST report] unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. In November the legal status of the death penalty was upheld [JURIST report] by state referendum in Oklahoma, Nebraska and California. In September executions in Oklahoma were put on a two-year hiatus so Oklahoma can reevaluate its lethal injection procedures [JURIST report] following a botched execution and several drug mix-ups in the past two years. In December a report by the Death Penalty Information Center found that the use of capital punishment in the US is at a 20-year low [JURIST report].