- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2017

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that the state has waited long enough, in some cases more than two decades, to execute the seven men slated to die before the end of the month.

“There’s been a 25-year nightmare for the victims that had to deal with this,” Mr. Hutchinson said on Fox24 in Fayetteville, “and now it’s time for justice to be carried out.”

The Republican governor has come under fire for scheduling the executions from April 17-27 with the state’s supply of a key lethal-injection drug set to expire April 30, but he told reporters at a meeting Thursday that the state isn’t in a rush.

“It’s simply doing our duty. It’s not a race against anything,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “My goodness, it’s been 25 years. It’s simply that the courts have said it’s time.”

Protesters began gathering Friday in front of the state capitol in Little Rock to urge the governor to block the executions. Originally eight men were slated to die during the 11-day time frame, but a federal judge granted a stay of execution last week to one of the inmates.

Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 as a result of legal challenges that finally ended Feb. 21, allowing Mr. Hutchinson to set the execution dates with just 10 weeks before the expiration of the midazolam, a sedative used in the three-drug protocol.

Mr. Hutchinson disputed the argument that the seven executions will place undue stress on prison staff, saying that in some respects the abbreviated timetable will reduce the pressure.

“They recognize while it’s a stressful time, there’s so much time that goes into preparation that if you spread it out over four months you’re going to have four months of stress,” Mr. Hutchinson said on KUAR-FM in Little Rock.”So this is a time that you can be focused. It’s a time when you can do your responsibilities and be prepared but have adequate time in between.”

Most of the focus has centered on the timing, which critics have decried as an “assembly line.” No state has carried out so many executions in such a condensed time period since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

As a result, said Mr. Hutchinson, the victims and their families have received “insufficient attention.”

“When I set these, I thought not only about the process or the responsibility, but also about the victims and what they’ve endured for the last 25 years,” he said in the Arkansas Times.

In a meeting with reporters, he said he wasn’t willing to go to the victims’ families and tell them he was delaying the executions in order to improve the optics.

He cited the case of Jane Daniels, who was shot and killed by Don Davis in 1990 during a burglary at her home in Rogers. She is survived by her husband Dick Daniels.

“Am I supposed to go to him [Mr. Daniels] and say, ‘I was worried about how the state would look’? I was worried about whether I would get too many requests from the media,’?” asked Mr. Hutchinson.

The seven condemned men committed murders and other crimes between 1989 and 1999. A federal judge heard arguments this week in a lawsuit filed by the inmates to block the executions, contesting the compressed timetable and drug protocol.

In addition, the first two inmates slated to die, Davis and Bruce Ward, have asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to delay the executions pending the outcome of a lawsuit over access to independent mental-health experts.

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