Twenty-three people were executed last year, the second-lowest number since 1991, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center. Yet Arkansas bucked that trend. The state successfully killed four men in April, which ranks Arkansas only behind Texas in terms of the number of people executed. Texas killed seven men in 2017. Florida and Alabama each executed three inmates on death row.
The report also notes that death penalty support is at the lowest level in 45 years and that new death sentences (projected to be 39 for the year of 2017) are at “the second lowest annual total since the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972.”
Arkansas also planned what would’ve been a fifth execution — and ninth planned for 2017 — when, just four months after saying that the executions in April needed to be held closely together because of the expiration of the controversial sedative midazolam, the state acquired more of the drug. The planned killing of Jack Gordon Greene was also stayed, as the Arkansas Supreme Court continues to determine the constitutionality of the role of the Arkansas Department of Correction’s director in determining mental competency to be executed.
As the report notes, many executions are planned that never happen: “States scheduled 81 executions in 2017, but 58 of them -– more than 70 percent –- were never carried out.”
Moving forward, there is still debate on whether or not the April executions were “botched.” Media witnesses and lawyers said that the execution of Kenneth Williams, the last of the four men to be killed, lurched and convulsed — indicating an improper execution — but state officials said nothing went wrong.
The way media witnesses view executions and the design of lethal injection as a method (which includes a paralytic), as we’ve written about, makes it difficult to determine if