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Mar 27, 2017 | Bob Kinney

Arkansas plans to execute eight in a ten-day span

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) condemns the upcoming state execution of eight convicts by the State of Arkansas in a span of just ten days.

“The state of Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005, but Governor Asa Hutchinson has plans for eight executions within the span of ten days in April beginning one day after Easter because the state's supply of midazolam expires at the end of that month and drug companies are increasingly deciding not to sell their drugs for executions,” said the Rev. Allison Liles, EPF executive director.

“It is said to be the most concentrated execution schedule in the United States since the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1976,” said Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield, Bishop of Arkansas. The diocese is planning death vigils in its cathedral in Little Rock before every execution beginning on Good Friday.

The state executions will forever scar the families of those convicts scheduled to die. They have been living a hell for two to three decades while their son has been on death row. The families of those slain by the convicts may feel like justice has been done – or perhaps not. Fellow death row prisoners will be saying goodbye to the eight as their own execution moves closer.

"The death penalty is driven by revenge – not justice," said the Rev. Allison Liles. "And a high price of this vengeful punishment is being paid by the prison workers forced to endure the reality of what it means to execute a human being."

“It is unfair for Governor Hutchinson to set execution dates for these eight men, then ask a select group of people to carry them out in such a short amount of time. Chosen members of the Cummins Unit prison staff will be forced to perform legal, state-sanctioned killings of eight fellow human beings within the span of ten days. After each execution they must return to their usual daily work for just one day before they must kill another person. This poses an inherent moral conflict to human values that must be addressed,” said Rev. Liles.

In his stunning documentary film “Into The Abyss” – noted film director Werner Herzog explores the effects of the death penalty in the State of Texas – a state that has killed 517 prisoners since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. Runners up are Virginia and Oklahoma with 110. Arkansas has killed just 27 – until now.                  

Most wrenching in the film is Herzog talking to the former head of the Death Squad at Huntsville – the Texas state prison where all prisoners are killed. The leader of a 12-person team had supervised the killing of about 120 prisoners. He lauded his team for getting the job done within ten minutes but something happened when he supervised the 1998 killing of Karla Faye Tucker – the first woman to be killed in Texas since 1863.

He tells Herzog that he fell to the floor of the execution chamber and began shaking violently when she died. The burly East Texas man quit his job the next day and lost his state pension – he could no longer kill.

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship has championed peace, nonviolence and social justice issues since its founding on Armistice Day in 1939.

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