Capital punishment in Arkansas
Capital punishment is legal in the U.S. state of Arkansas. Since 1820, a total of 504 individuals have been executed. According to the Arkansas Department of Correction, as of June 8, 2013, a total of 37 men were under a sentence of death in the state. On June 22, 2012, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled the current execution law unconstitutional because it let the executive branch decide on some execution issues that the legislature should have.
On 25 July 1902 seven men were hanged, the most executions in one day in the state.
Almost all executions were for crimes that involved murder. A number of people were also executed for rape and there was one execution for espionage, 17 year old alleged Confederate spy David O. Dodd, hanged by Union soldiers on 8 January 1864.
In 1913 the method used was changed to the electric chair. The electric chair was constructed from the wood that had previously made up the state gallows. This electric chair would be used for all electrocutions up until 1964. Four more people were hanged in the state — one in 1913, two in 1914 and one in 1930.
The last execution in the state before Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), was that of Charles Fields on 24 January 1964 for rape. New capital punishment laws were passed in Arkansas and came into force on 23 March 1973. The first execution would not come until 18 June 1990 when John Swindler was electrocuted. His was the first and only execution so far on the new electric chair constructed by the state in the 1970s.
According to Michael L. Radelet of the University of Colorado there have been two instances of executions that did not go to plan in Arkansas since Furman. On 24 January 1992 the execution of Ricky Ray Rector was delayed by 50 minutes after the medical staff were unable to find a suitable vein in his arm. The curtain over the witness area was not drawn, and witnesses heard Rector moan loudly eight times. State officials attributed the difficulties to his size and use of antipsychotic medication. The execution of Christina Marie Riggs faced similar delays on May 2, 2000, when staff were unable to locate a vein in her elbow. They eventually found one in her wrist.
For all people sentenced after 4 July 1983, the method used is the lethal injection. Under state law:
- "The punishment of death is to be administered by a continuous intravenous injection of a lethal quantity of an ultra-short-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent…"
If the person was sentenced before that date, they have the choice of the electric chair or lethal injection. However, since no inmates are eligible for that method, the electric chair has all but been retired for use in volunteers to be used.
Executions in Arkansas are currently performed at the Cummins Unit.
Juveniles can be tried as adults at the age of 14 for capital murder.
- murder while committing or attempting to commit arson, terrorism, rape, kidnapping, carjacking, robbery, burglary, a felony violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, involving an actual delivery of a controlled substance, or first degree escape
- premeditated murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer, jailer, prison official, firefighter, judge or other court official, probation officer, parole officer, any military personnel, or teacher or school employee
- premeditated murder
- premeditated murder of any holder of any public office or candidate for public office
- premeditated murder while in prison
- contract killing
- murder of a person under the age of 14
- Death resulting from discharging a firearm at a vehicle, conveyance, or a residential or commercial occupiable structure that is knowingly occupied
- Treason (defined solely as levying war against the state or adhering to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort)
List of individuals executed since Furman
All of the following individuals have been executed for murder since the Furman decision. All but John Swindler were executed by lethal injection. Swindler's execution was on the electric chair.
|#||Executed person||Race||Age||Sex||Date of
|1||John Edward Swindler*||White||46||M||18-Jun-1990||Police officer Randy Basnett||Bill Clinton|
|2||Ronald Gene Simmons||White||49||M||25-Jun-1990||Rebecca Simmons, Gene Simmons, Barbara Simmons, Loretta Simmons, Eddy Simmons, Marianne Simmons, Becky Simmons, Renata Simmons, Billy Simmons, Trae Simmons, Sheila McNulty, Dennis McNulty, Michael McNulty, Sylvia Simmons, Kathy Kendrick, and James D. Chaffin.|
|3||Ricky Ray Rector||Black||40||M||24-Jan-1992||Police officer Robert Martin|
|4||Steven Douglas Hill||White||25||M||07-May-1992||Police officer Robert Klein|
|5||Edward Charles Pickens||Black||39||M||11-May-1994||Wesley Noble||Jim Guy Tucker|
|6||Jonas Hoten Whitmore||White||50||M||11-May-1994||Essie Mae Black|
|7||Hoyt Franklin Clines||White||37||M||03-Aug-1994||Don Lehman|
|8||Darryl V. Richley||White||43||M||03-Aug-1994|
|9||James William Holmes||White||37||M||03-Aug-1994|
|10||Richard Wayne Snell||White||64||M||19-Apr-1995||William Stumpp|
|11||Barry Lee Fairchild||Black||41||M||31-Aug-1995||Marjorie Mason|
|12||William Frank Parker||White||41||M||08-Aug-1996||James Warren and Sandra Warren||Mike Huckabee|
|13||Paul Ruiz||Latino||49||M||08-Jan-1997||Marvin Richie and Opal James|
|14||Earl Van Denton||White||47||M||08-Jan-1997|
|15||Kirt Douglas Wainwright||Black||30||M||08-Jan-1997||Barbara Smith|
|16||Eugene Wallace Perry||White||53||M||06-Aug-1997||Kenneth Staton and Suzanne Staton-Ware|
|17||Wilburn A. Henderson||White||56||M||08-Jul-1998||Willa Dean O'Neal|
|18||Johnie Michael Cox||White||42||M||16-Feb-1999||Marie Sullens, Margaret Brown, and Billy Brown|
|19||Marion Albert Pruett||White||49||M||12-Apr-1999||Bobbie Jean Robertson|
|20||Mark Edward Gardner||White||43||M||08-Sep-1999||Joe Joyce, Martha Joyce, and Sara McCurdy|
|21||Alan Willett||White||52||M||08-Sep-1999||Eric Willett and Roger Willett|
|22||Christina Marie Riggs||White||28||F||02-May-2000||Justin Riggs and Shelby Alexis Riggs|
|23||David Dewayne Johnson||Black||37||M||19-Dec-2000||Leon Brown|
|24||Clay King Smith||White||30||M||08-May-2001||Misty Erwin, Shelley Sorg, Sean Sorg, Taylor Sorg, and Samantha Rhodes|
|25||Riley Dobi Noel||Black||31||M||09-Jul-2003||Marcell Young, Malak Hussian, and Mustafa Hussian|
|26||Charles Laverne Singleton||Black||44||M||06-Jan-2004||Mary Lou York|
|27||Eric Randall Nance||White||45||M||28-Nov-2005||Julie Heath|
- Nuss, Jeannie. "Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down execution law." Associated Press. June 22, 2012. Retrieved on March 24, 2013.
- Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
- Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)
- Arkansas Code § 5-10-101. Capital murder
- Arkansas Code § 5-51-201. Treason
- Executions in Arkansas 1820–1964
- Post-Furman Botched Executions from Death Penalty Information Center
- Death row inmates from Arkansas Department of Correction
- Arkansas's Electric Chairs
- 2007 Facts Brochure. Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on 2007-11-13.