Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced today his intention to grant clemency for Death Row inmate Jason McGehee, as the Parole Board had recommended earlier this year. This would commute his death sentence to life without
Said Hutchinson’s statement:
“My intent to grant clemency to Mr. McGehee is based partly on the recommendation of the Parole Board to commute his sentence from Death to Life Without Parole,” said Governor Hutchinson. “In making this decision I considered many factors including the entire trial transcript, meetings with members of the victim’s family and the recommendation of the Parole Board. In addition, the disparity in sentence given to Mr. McGehee compared to the sentences of his co-defendants was a factor in my decision, as well.”
McGehee was convicted Jan. 8, 1998 of capital murder for killing John Melbourne Jr. The presiding judge recommended clemency. The Boone County prosecutor and sheriff objected.
The governor’s recommendation will be followed by a 30-day comment period. McGehee will remain on Death Row in the interim. No execution date is scheduled.
McGehee, 41, was supposed to be executed on April 27, but after the state Parole Board recommended him for clemency, a federal judge delayed his execution because he said state law required a 30-day comment period on the clemency recommendation. That delay pushed the state’s ability to execute McGehee beyond the expiration date of the drug at the end of April.
Here’s an account of the 6-1 decision by the Parole Board to recommend clemency, including his attorney’s argument that two co-defendants, perhaps more culpable than McGehee, had received lesser sentences.
UPDATE (11:59 a.m.): Here is a statement from John C. Williams, McGehee’s lawyer:
“Today Governor Hutchinson announced his intention to commute Jason McGehee’s sentence from death to life without parole. In doing so, he accepted what the Arkansas Parole Board previously acknowledged: that Jason’s youth at the time of his offense and his rehabilitation while in prison make him deserving of clemency. This is a just outcome given that Jason’s equally culpable co-defendants are serving sentences less than death. Jason’s case offers a prime example of why clemency is a necessary part of capital sentencing. The Governor has used this power appropriately and wisely here. We are grateful for his decision to show mercy.”