Arkansas is planning a killing spree unlike any other in modern history. The state plans to execute eight men in a 10-day period in April, two a day on four separate days.
After nearly 12 years without an execution, Arkansas’ governor says he wants to hurry up and use the state’s execution drugs before they expire. He’s referring to the drug midazolam, the same drug that was challenged as cruel and unusual in the U.S. Supreme Court. The same drug that was used in the horribly botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and moaned for 43 minutes before dying of a heart attack in Oklahoma’s death chamber.
Now, Arkansas prison officials, facing the specter of their own botched execution, are scrambling to train staff, acquire the other drugs in Arkansas’ three-drug protocol, provide counseling and spiritual guidance to eight condemned men at once, and recruit citizen witnesses to be present at each one of the executions.
Witnesses are so difficult to find that Arkansas’ prison director has taken to begging for volunteers during speeches at the Rotary Club.
Other prison officials are calling foul, saying that carrying out executions is tough on staff under normal circumstances. Forcing them to rush through eight in ten days is cruel and unnecessary.
Watch longtime N.C. corrections official Jennie Lancaster explain the toll that executions take on staff:
Arkansas’ crazy plan to turn its death chamber into a factory, executing men at a record pace in service to its drugs’ expiration dates, is yet another example of the horror show that the American death penalty has become.
Drug shortages have led to a series of botched executions and prompted states to pass laws that make the identities of their drug suppliers “state secrets.” More than one state has attempted to buy execution drugs illegally from overseas, only to have the federal government seize the drugs at the airport. Others have contemplated bringing back the firing squad. The return of the guillotine can’t be far off.
Right now, North Carolina is in the same position Arkansas was in just a few weeks ago. We haven’t used our execution chamber in more than a decade because of pending lawsuits and concerns about new state laws that remove transparency from the state’s execution process.
With every new spectacle, other states are showing us why it’s best to stay out of the business of death.