Democracy Now!

Death Penalty

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  • We speak with The Guardian’s chief reporter Ed Pilkington about the shocking double execution Arkansas carried out Monday night, marking the first time in nearly 17 years that any state has killed two people on the same day. At 7:20 p.m. local time, 52-year-old Jack Harold Jones was pronounced dead in the death chamber at the Cummins Unit state prison. Infirmary workers had spent more than 45 minutes unsuccessfully trying to put a central line into his neck. According to a court filing, during Jones’s execution, he was "moving his lips and gulping for air," which suggests he continued to be conscious during the lethal injection. Lawyers for the second man, Marcel Williams, filed a last-minute appeal for a stay of execution following Jones’s killing, arguing Williams could also experience a botched, painful death. A district court judge initially granted a temporary stay of Williams’s execution but then allowed the execution to go forward. Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. The executions came after legal challenges reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected a stay for Williams. The only justice to dissent in this ruling was Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The last double execution carried out in the United States was in 2000 in Texas.

  • By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

    If he gets his way, Arkansas’ Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson will execute eight men in 11 days this April.

  • Arkansas’s plan to carry out an unprecedented series of executions has been thrown into chaos, after judges ruled to temporarily halt the state’s plan. Hundreds of death penalty opponents rallied at the State Capitol in Little Rock on Friday, as state Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary stay of the executions over concerns the state used false pretenses to obtain the drug vecuronium bromide, which is one of a cocktail of drugs slated to be used in the executions. The following day, federal Judge Kristine Baker also temporarily blocked the state’s execution plans from proceeding over concerns about another one of the execution drugs: the sedative midazolam. Arkansas is appealing the rulings. If Arkansas prevails, it’s slated to begin the executions today.

  • In this web exclusive, we continue our conversation with Damien Echols, who was freed from Arkansas’s death row in 2011. Over the weekend, he returned to Arkansas to protest the state’s plans to execute eight men this month.

  • A battle over the death penalty is brewing in Florida, where Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala has announced her office will no longer seek the death penalty in any murder cases, including in the case of Markeith Loyd, who is accused of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and Orlando police officer Debra Clayton. Ayala’s announcement sparked immediate backlash from the police union and Florida Governor Rick Scott, who called on her to recuse herself from the Loyd case. When she refused, Scott signed an executive order removing her from the case and reassigning it. Now Ayala, the first African-American state attorney in Florida history, has been receiving death threats, including from local government employees. We are joined by Angel Harris, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

  • The state of Arkansas is planning to execute eight men within a 10-day period in April—that’s nearly a quarter of its entire death row population. Earlier this month, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed proclamations setting four execution dates for the eight inmates between April 17 and 27, which would be an unprecedented rate of executions in modern U.S. history. Arkansas has suspended executions since 2005 amid challenges in acquiring lethal injection drugs, and lawsuits over the drugs used. Arkansas says it is rushing the executions because the state’s supply of the sedative midazolam will soon expire. For more, we speak with Megan McCracken, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

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