CRIME

Execution witnesses needed in Arkansas

State law dictates witnesses must be present to ensure the executions are carried out legally and properly.

State law dictates witnesses must be present to ensure the executions are carried out legally and properly.  (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Arkansas is looking for volunteers to witness an unprecedented number of executions taking place over ten days in April.

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State law dictates there must be witnesses present to ensure the executions are carried out legally and properly.

At this time the Arkansas Department of Corrections can’t find enough people to watch all of them. It started when Director of the Dept. of Corrections Wendy Kelley went to a Little Rock rotary club and casually asked the group gathered to volunteer as witnesses, Fox 16 News reported.

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“Temporarily there was a little laugh from the audience because they thought she might be kidding," the club's substitute president, Bill Booker, said.  "It quickly became obvious that she was not kidding."

The state is planning to execute eight death row inmates two at beginning April 17 and ending April 27.  According to the law, at least six and no more than twelve people need to be present to “ verify that the execution was conducted in the manner required by law. People who do sign up need to be 21 and can have no previous felony convictions. They have to be an Arkansas resident and can have no relation to the inmate or the victim, according to state law.

The Death Penalty Information Center says on their website that, “No other state has conducted as many as eight executions in a single month since executions resumed [by Supreme Court order] in 1976.”

The reason for the condensed time frame revolves around the scarcity of the drug Midazolam, which is one of three drugs used in the process. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the state’s Midazolam supply of eight doses will expire at the end of April.

The Department of Corrections spokesperson, Solomon Graves, tells the Arkansas Democrat Gazette “nothing prohibits a witness from service during multiple executions.” It is unclear how many witnesses have volunteered so far. It is also unclear whether a lack of witnesses would halt or impede the pace of the executions and the entire execution schedule for that matter.

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Andrew Craft is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Las Vegas, Nevada . Follow him on twitter: @AndrewCraft