Political News

The 8 inmates Arkansas was planning to execute this month

Posted April 15

— Despite several court rulings that put its plans in jeopardy, Arkansas hopes to go ahead with the executions of six men between Monday and April 27, which would be a pace exceeded only by Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized the death penalty in 1976.

Arkansas initially planned to execute eight inmates before the end of the month, when its supply of a key execution drug expires. But a federal judge halted one execution and the state Supreme Court stayed a second. Another federal judge on Saturday ordered a halt to all of the executions, saying the men have the right to challenge prison procedures that could expose them to "severe pain."

Here is a look at the eight inmates and their cases:

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BRUCE EARL WARD

Ward, 60, has been on death row since 1990 for the death of a clerk found strangled in the men's room of the Little Rock convenience store where she worked.

Rebecca Lynn Doss was 18. A police officer noticed no one was in the store and pulled up to find Ward walking out of the men's room. Surveillance video later revealed that Ward asked Doss for help to open the men's room door.

Ward's initial death sentence was overturned because a judge let jurors consider documents related to Ward's 1977 murder conviction in Pennsylvania. A second death sentence was overturned because a court transcript was filled with errors. A third jury imposed a death sentence in 1997.

Ward had been scheduled for execution Monday but the state Supreme Court granted a stay on Friday so courts could consider his mental health.

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DON WILLIAM DAVIS

Davis, 54, came within six hours of execution in 2010 for the 1990 death of Jane Daniel in Rogers. The woman was killed in her home after Davis broke in and shot her with a .44-caliber revolver he found there.

The Arkansas Supreme Court halted Davis' execution seven years ago as it addressed whether legislators had improperly left key details to the prison staff. Justices ultimately tossed out the state's death-row policies, which contributed to the 12 years that have passed since the last Arkansas execution.

Davis did not seek clemency but joined the other inmates' various lawsuits. His execution had been set for Monday.

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STACEY E. JOHNSON

Stacey Johnson, 47, is scheduled to die for killing Carol Heath in 1993. The woman was beaten and strangled and had her throat slit. Heath's daughter, Ashley, has said she had forgiven Johnson but wants him to admit that he killed her mother. He has refused and maintains that he is innocent. Heath's son told the panel that he didn't understand why Johnson hadn't been executed yet.

Johnson's initial conviction was overturned when the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that a police officer should not have told jurors that Ashley Heath, then 6 and found incompetent to testify, had picked Johnson out of a photo lineup. She testified at Johnson's retrial three years later.

DNA evidence included a hair found on Carol Heath's body. A cigarette butt found in the pocket of a shirt left at a roadside park with Heath's blood on it also had Johnson's saliva on it.

Johnson had been set for execution on Thursday.

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LEDELL LEE

Lee, 51, was sentenced to die for the 1993 death of his neighbor Debra Reese, who was struck 36 times with a tire tool her husband had given her for protection. He is also serving prison terms for the rapes of a Jacksonville woman and a Jacksonville teenager.

Lee, who struck Reese 36 times, was arrested less than an hour after the slaying after spending some of the $300 he had stolen from her. He had been released on parole 10 weeks before her death after serving time for burglary and theft. DNA evidence linked Lee to other attacks, including the abduction of Christine Lewis, 22.

Lewis was abducted five days before being found beaten, raped and strangled. Jurors in that trial couldn't reach a decision and prosecutors dropped the case after the state Supreme Court upheld Lee's death sentence for Reese's murder.

Lee had been scheduled for execution on Thursday.

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JACK HAROLD JONES JR.

Jones, 52, was convicted of killing bookkeeper Mary Phillips in 1995 and trying to kill her daughter, Lacy, during a robbery at an accounting office. Phillips was found naked from the waist down with a cord from a nearby coffee pot tied around her neck. Lacy, left for dead, woke up as police photographed her.

Lacy testified that Jones had visited the accounting office twice on the day her mother died and described his tattoos to investigators. Courts rejected appeals based on Jones' claim that lawyers didn't do enough to keep him off death row.

Jones had been scheduled for execution on April 24.

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MARCEL WILLIAMS

Williams, 46, was convicted of suffocating a young mother of two after raping her. Stacy Errickson typically carpooled to work in North Little Rock with a friend, but the 22-year-old drove her own truck on Nov. 20, 1994.

Prosecutors say Williams abducted her when she stopped for gas in Jacksonville, then drove her to various ATMs and had her take out about $350. Police found the woman's hosiery and lunch cooler at a storage facility, then found her beaten and bound body in a park two weeks later.

Williams confessed to killing the woman. His jury deliberated about 30 minutes.

He had been set for execution on April 24.

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JASON F. MCGEHEE

Co-defendants said McGehee, 40, did most of the beating when 15-year-old Johnny Melbourne Jr. was killed Aug. 19, 1996, for telling police who was behind a northern Arkansas theft ring.

Several people had beaten and tortured the teenager at a house in Harrison, then they bound him and drove him to an abandoned farmhouse outside Omaha, a town near the Missouri border. He was later strangled while his hands were tied with an electrical cord.

McGehee asked his jurors for mercy, with relatives testifying he had grown up in a dysfunctional family. The jury convicted him in 90 minutes and decided on a death sentence five hours later.

McGehee had been scheduled to be put to death on April 27, but a federal judge put the execution on hold after the state Parole Board recommended that Gov. Asa Hutchinson grant him clemency. The judge said McGehee was entitled to a 30-day comment period before Hutchinson makes his decision. Any new execution date wouldn't come until after the state's midazolam supply expires.

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KENNETH WILLIAMS

Williams, 38, initially was sentenced to life in prison for the 1998 killing of University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff cheerleader Dominique Hurd. After jurors spared his life, he turned to the girl's family and taunted them, saying "You thought I was going to die, didn't you?"

Three weeks after his conviction, he escaped by hiding in a container of hog slop being ferried from a prison kitchen to a prison hog farm outside the main gates. Once out, he killed Cecil Boren, who lived near the prison, and stole a truck. During a chase in southern Missouri the next day, Williams crashed into a water-delivery truck, killing the driver, before police captured him.

While in prison, Williams said he had killed another person in 1998.

He had been scheduled for execution on April 27.

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Follow Kelly P. Kissel on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kisselAP and go to http://bigstory.ap.org/author/kelly-p-kissel to see his work.

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