Federal Judge Price Marshall this morning ruled that the state’s hurried consideration of clemency requests by Death Row inmates was not flawed enough to stop the executions, except in one case.
He ruled from the bench on the third day of hearings that six inmates had failed to show the hurried process (speeded to fit the 10-day-span of eight executions) harmed their chances for clemency. Six inmates of eight scheduled to die this month had sought clemency; two did not. Of five clemency hearings so far, the state Parole Board has recommended clemency in only one case, that of Jason McGehee, who was 20 when he killed a teen in Harrison.
Because of that clemency recommendation, the judge said today, McGehee is entitled to more time, according to reporting from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It’s unclear if that means a formal stay of his scheduled execution. The judge said he’ll file a written order shortly. AP said, however, the execution of McGehee had been blocked.
That means seven executions remain scheduled. Jack Jones has a clemency hearing Friday. The judge could reconsider as to his argument about the shortened clemency process.
The judge said the clemency process was “beyond imperfect,” according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Inmates are separately arguing that the hurried execution process could lead to unconstitutional punishment in the form of botched executions. They may also appeal this ruling today.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge cheered the win as to five of the six condemned in this office statement:
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. 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
UPDATE: Here’s the summary of the judge’s order:
The Motion for Preliminary Injunction is partly granted, partly denied, and held in abeyance as to Jones. When the Board gives public notice of its recommendation about Jones, the Board Defendants must also notify this Court. The Court stays Jason McGehee’s execution and enjoins Governor Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley from carrying out McGehee’s death sentence until the Arkansas Parole Board complies with Ark. Code Ann.§ 16-93-204(e) and until Governor Hutchinson acts on the Board’s recommendation. In due course, the Board Defendants must file notice of statutory compliance. Thereafter, whenever the Governor exercises his discretion and acts on the Board’s merit recommendation about McGehee, the Governor must file notice of his decision.
Federal Public Defender John Williams commented:
We’re pleased the court gave Jason McGehee relief. In his ruling, Judge Marshall was clearly troubled by the State’s clemency process. Judge Marshall found the State has violated its own statutes and regulations. He was emphatic that the clemency process has been shoddy and arbitrary in many respects. And he made clear that this case will continue. Though the State succeeded in defending most of the plaintiffs’ current execution dates, there is little for the State to be proud of in that success.