US & Canada

Arkansas executions: One inmate could be spared death

The condemned, left to right from top, are: Don Davis, Stacey Johnson, Jack Jones and Ledell Lee; left to right, bottom: Jason McGehee, Bruce Ward, Kenneth Williams and Marcel Williams Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jason McGehee (bottom left) could be spared lethal injection, but all eight men are scheduled to die

One of eight inmates due to be put to death by the US state of Arkansas this month could be given clemency.

The Arkansas Parole Board has recommended mercy in the case of Jason McGehee, who was convicted of torturing and killing a teenager.

It will now be up to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to decide whether the 40-year-old escapes lethal injection.

The unprecedented series of executions within a 10-day period starting on 17 April is due to a drug expiring.

The state's supply of midazolam, a sedative used in its three-drug lethal injection cocktail, will be useless after this month.

Lawyers for the prisoners say the "assembly-line" of four double lethal injections is unconstitutional.

The lawyer for McGehee, John Williams, said his client was only 20 at the time of the offence and "his near-perfect record in prison has impressed many people".

Two of his co-defendants received lesser sentences despite being equally or more culpable, said Mr Williams, who asked the governor to commute the sentence to life without parole.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005

Johnny Melbourne, whose 15-year-old son of the same name was beaten to death by McGehee, had asked the board to reject clemency.

"John didn't have this. Even though he was begging for his life and was hurting. He didn't have this and he begged for his life too. He didn't have y'all."

The parole board has already turned down clemency requests from four of the other men scheduled to die in the 10-day period later this month.

No US state has put eight inmates to death in such an accelerated way since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Like many US states, Arkansas has struggled to find the drugs it needs to carry out executions. Its last was in 2005.

What did the eight men do?

Bruce Ward - Strangled teenage shop clerk Rebecca Doss

Don Davis - Condemned for the execution-style killing of Jane Daniel as he burgled her home

Stacey Johnson - Murdered Carol Heath, who was beaten, strangled and had her throat slit

Ledell Lee - Bludgeoned Debra Reese to death with a tyre iron her husband had given her for protection

Jack Jones - Condemned for the rape and murder of accounts clerk Mary Phillips, and the nearly fatal beating of her 11-year-old daughter

Marcel Williams - Raped and murdered Stacey Erickson, after kidnapping her from a convenience store

Kenneth Williams - Murdered farmer Cecil Boren during an escape from prison where Williams had been incarcerated for murdering cheerleader Dominique Hurd

Jason McGehee - Jailed for the death of 15-year-old John Melbourne, who had been his friend

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