Greg Yarbrough of Channel 4 reports that the state Parole Board, following hearings last week, has recommended clemency for Death Row inmate Jason McGehee, but not for Kenneth Williams.
The recommendation for McGehee, on a 6-1 vote, goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson for consideration. His is the first request for clemency approved by the Parole Board among five decided so far. Two of the eight men scheduled to die over 10 days this month did not request clemency hearings. One remaining hearing, for Jack Jones, is set Friday. Meanwhile, attorneys for inmates are arguing in federal court that the clemency process has been shortened so much that it is unconstitutional.
McGehee is to die for the 1996 slaying in Harrison of 15-year-old John Melbourne Jr., who had told police about a theft ring. According to news accounts, McGehee, who was 20 at the time, has said the attack on Melbourne, a member of his gang, went “too far.” Co-defendants did not receive death sentences and there was testimony of McGehee’s good behavior in 19 years in prison. A former Correction Department director, Ray Hobbs, testified in McGehee’s behalf.
Williams killed four people in 1998 and 1999. He’s talked of becoming religious while in prison.
UPDATE: McGehee’s attorney,. federal public defender John Williams, issued this statement later:
John C. Williams, Assistant Federal Public Defender and Mr. McGehee’s attorney, released the following statement in response to today’s clemency recommendation:
“Mr. McGehee was only twenty years old at the time of his offense, and his near-perfect record in prison has impressed many people. His clemency petition was supported by both the former head of the Arkansas Department of Correction, Ray Hobbs, and the judge who presided over his trial, Robert McCorkindale. The parole board determined Mr. McGehee warrants clemency instead of death because of his exemplary behavior, his youth at the time of the crime, and also because his sentence is not proportional. Two of his co-defendants who were equally, if not more, culpable received lesser sentences. For all these reasons, we respectfully ask the Governor to accept the parole board’s recommendation and sentence Mr. McGehee to life without the possibility of parole instead of death.”