Arkansas Needs Volunteers To Watch 8 Executions In April — Could You Do It?

Gurney at San Quentin prison used for executions by lethal injection [Wikimedia Commons]

The state of Arkansas has an unprecedented eight executions by lethal injection scheduled over a 10-day period coming up in April, which has reportedly left the state prison scrambling for volunteer witnesses. Citizen witnesses are required to be present at executions to make sure that they are carried out according to law.

On Tuesday, Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley encouraged Rotary Club members to volunteer. “The last times these were set, we actually did not have enough people volunteer,” Kelley told members of the Little Rock Rotary Club 99. “You seem to be a group that does not have felony backgrounds and are over 21. So if you’re interested in serving in that area, in this serious role, just call my office.”

Related: Arkansas Judge Resigns Over Allegations He Traded Leniency For Nude Photos, Spankings

Finding volunteers among members of the group may be difficult, though, according to Bill Booker, acting president of the club. “What I suspect is that some people might support the death penalty, but when it comes to witnessing something like that, it’s a different story,” Booker said Tuesday. “It may cause emotional trauma for quite a while. It would be one of the most significant things you’ll ever see in your life.”

Booker, himself a funeral director at Roller Funeral Home in Little Rock, said that even he will not volunteer for the task, as he thinks it would be “too much for him.”

Related: 5 Most Terrifying Botched Executions In Modern History

A volunteer must be at least 21 years old, an Arkansas resident, have no felony criminal history and have no connection to the inmate or to the victim. The state’s death-penalty law requires that the prison director procure no fewer than six and no more than 12 citizen witnesses for each execution. Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to contact Wendy Kelley in writing at P.O. Box 8707, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, 71611.

Arkansas has not put an inmate to death for 12 years, and now the eight executions in a row are scheduled beginning April 17 and ending on April 27. The speed of the upcoming executions has reportedly been prompted by the fact that midazolam, one of the three lethal-injection drugs, will expire at the end of April.

Midazolam has a troubled history, and is the reason why Arkansas has not executed anyone since 2005. You’ll likely recognize the drug if you’ve been following the Richard Glossip case in Oklahoma or the controversial 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in Glossip V. Gross that lethal injection using midazolam does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Watch the two-night event Killing Richard Glossip on Investigation Discovery on Monday, April 17, and Tuesday, April 18, at 9/8c.

If the eight executions are carried out as scheduled, Arkansas will be the first state to execute that many inmates in that short of a time frame since 1976, the year the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.

Arkansas has executed 27 inmates since 1976.

Read more:

Arkansas Online 

Main photo: Gurney at San Quentin prison used for executions by lethal injection [Wikimedia Commons]

  • Judy Bland

    I have been an advocate for the death penalty since I was old enough to vote. I do not believe in several appeals before the process is carried out. It would save each and every state hundreds of thousands of dollars by executing within a three month time frame. It costs way too much money to feed, clothe, medicate and house these people for up to and past twenty years.

    • Erik Lawrence

      how much would it cost the state in wrongful death suits when they execute someone that shouldnt have been?

      your shortsighted “money savings” can and would cost the state far more. which is why that is not the case.

      someone like yourself that is a life long advocate for anything, should be far more educated on that given topic. executing 1 person incorrectly is the worst kind of travesty of justice possible. its bad enough to imprison them in the terrible death row conditions, then release them when an error or wrongful conviction is found. death is irreversible.

      • Michelle Norton

        Erik, totally agree. The number of inmates on death row convicted before DNA testing was available and subsequently exonerated from all guilt after appealing their convictions due to now-testable DNA evidence is, really, quite astounding. But hey, let’s just fry ’em all if it saves a buck, right? Ugh.

      • Harlos E. Hall

        Guilty as charged. Eye for an eye!

        • Erik Lawrence

          Guilty as charged? Not always, otherwise convictions wouldn’t be overturned.

          Ignorance is cool and all, intentional ignorance is just stupidity.

          Don’t choose to be ignorant. It’s sad really.

        • Erik Lawrence

          The most basic issue with “eye for an eye” who’s better then? They did something wrong, so we are going to do the same thing. Repeating their horrible act, but expecting to be noble in doing it, isn’t that the definition of self righteous? They are wrong, but we’re not, we’re better.

    • jmcox

      It actually costs less to sentence a person to “life” than death. Once sentenced to death, they appeals process is very expensive for the tax payers and can go on for years!

    • disqus_cG3tXf1WJR

      Judy,

      Until our judicial system begins to hold prosecutors, judges and law enforcement accountable for wrongful convictions we will always be faced with the unknown and shallow people who want to blame every penny spent on prisoners will have the same view. This is so much more than spending tax payers money.

      I hope you or someone from your family never has to face the unjust torment from the judicial system, God help you if you do.

      Opinions are like mouths, everybody has one. Which also entitles each person to speak their “opinion” which is what you have done and I have done as well as everyone else on this thread.

      Having experienced my brother’s execution at the hands of the state of Virginia in the electric chair while Gov Douglas Wilder was in office. I am here to share that no easy answer will be found during this life on earth.

      Remember, the lost, the elderly and how we treat each other because in the end that is what each of us will have.

      • CC Burgess

        It’s real easy to play armchair quarterback and hypothesize that we should execute everyone on death row. That would be erroneous thinking because law is not about guilt or innocence; it’s about the size of your bank account. O.J. Simpson damn near cut off his wife’s head plus killed Ron Goldman, and rather then being transferred to San Quentin Maximum Security Pententiary Death Row, he was enjoying a T-Bone Steak at his Brentwood Hollywood Country Club after verdict rendered by jury. I think there are clear cases that warrant death (Ted Bundy,) but in cases based solely on the testimony of a known meth drug addict, zero corrobating supplememental evidennce, zero DNA, I am reluctant to Play God.

  • Steve Frey

    Too bad Arkasas citizenship is required for volunteers, otherwise I’d make the drive from Michigan.

    • Missy Swart

      I thought the same thing.

  • Doy Bowers

    I fully support the Death Penalty if they’re absolute;y sure they have the right person!!! Even with DNA mistakes are made. We had a guy on Death Row here in Oklahoma for 14yrs. before a secondary DNA test proved his innocence.
    However I don’t think I could witness an Execution without any connection to either the Victim or the Perpetrator??? It would definitely be hard to watch.

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    • Erik Lawrence

      I’m the same way, if there is no possibility of a wrongful conviction, great. That’s a very hard situation to recognize, and where a death sentence is so serious. Hard to come back from putting someone to death.