The state of Arkansas is giving the country a taste of the cold economics of the death penalty. Just like many Americans may dispose of food nearing its expiration date, Arkansas is facing the same reality when it comes to the expiration of drugs used in executions. The state reached the cold solution of increasing the number of executions dramatically to meet the expiration date of the drugs.
In April, the state intends to execute eight prisoners in a 10-day period, which is unequaled in modern penal history. The men, four Back, and four White were convicted of murders that occurred between 1989 and 1999. They are part of the group of 34 inmates now on death row in Arkansas.
The pace of executions is disturbing to some and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson stated to the media, “I would love to have those extended over a period of multiple months and years, but that’s not the circumstances that I find myself in. … And, again, the families of the victims that have endured this for so many years deserve a conclusion to it. It is uncertain as to whether another drug can be obtained and the families of the victims do not need to live with continued uncertainty after decades of review.”
The executions are scheduled to take place between April 17 and 27; two men would be put to death on each of four dates. The men are going to die by lethal injection and there is a combination of drugs used to kill a prisoner. There is no one set drug approved for execution and combinations are used to make the body shutdown in a way that is not “cruel or unusual.” The state of Ohio, for example, uses an approved three-drug combo for executions: midazolam, which renders the inmate unconscious; rocuronium bromide, which paralyzes the inmate; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. The companies that provide the drugs are shielded from being revealed because of a law signed by Gov. John Kasich in 2014.
The eight men scheduled for execution in Arkansas are Kenneth Williams, Bruce Ward, Stacey Johnson, Don Williamson Davis, Ledell Lee, Jack Harold Jones, Jason McGehee and Marcel Williams.