gurney in arkansas

Feminist Fuck Yeah: Courts Intervene To Block Arkansas’s “Assembly Line” Executions

Late on Wednesday, Arkansas suffered two major setbacks in its attempt to execute eight men in ten days.

The rulings followed a flurry of legal activity earlier this week. On Tuesday , the Supreme Court upheld the stay of Don Davis and Bruce Ward, two of the eight inmates scheduled to be executed. On Wednesday, two more stays were issued, for Stacey Johnson and Jason McGhee, by Arkansas courts.

The final, fatal blow (so to speak) to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s “assembly-line executions” came from Pulsaki County Circuit Judge Alice Gray on Wednesday. Justice Gray halted the executions on the grounds that one of the drugs to be used in the lethal injection protocol, vecuronium bromide, was being used in violations of the terms of the manufacturer, McKesson Corp. The corporation had sued on grounds that it did not want its medical drugs to be used for the purposes of state killing. This final stay affects all of the eight condemned inmates.

Arkansas’s planned “killing spree” would have been the most unprecedented burst of executions in the United States in the past fifty years. The last time a state even tried to execute two inmates on the same day—Oklahoma in 2014—the first execution was badly botched, resulting to the hastily postponement of the second.

The new legal rulings should make it unlikely that Arkansas carries out any executions in the near future. Come April 30, the state’s supply of one of the drugs critical for the lethal injection procedure —midazolam—will expire. And there are very few legal methods to replenish their killing supply: pharmaceutical companies, by and large, are rejecting the use of any of their medicinal products in executions. We can only hope that this is a step forward in continuing Arkansas’s de facto moratorium of capital punishment since 2005, and a step forward towards the death of the death penalty in the American punitive system as a whole.

Until that happens, the death penalty should be a cause of concern to all feminists. The particular experiences of the inmates on death row in Arkansas are especially terrifying. Several of the inmates have documented mental disabilities. Most encountered severe abuse (domestic abuse as a child, sexual abuse, or both). A system that simply murders victims of trauma who cause trauma rather than addressing the roots of the issue—pervasive abuse and lack of adequate societal care for mental illnesses—is not a system that will free anyone. It instead emboldens and empowers a racist and patriarchal state to continue lynching people.

Read more about why abolition of the death penalty is a feminist issue here, here, here, and here.

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Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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