Arkansas inmate set for execution applies for clemency

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2015 6:32 PM
Arkansas inmate set for execution applies for clemency

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — One of the two Arkansas inmates scheduled to be executed on Nov. 3 filed an application for executive clemency by the deadline Monday.

Arkansas Parole Board spokesman Solomon Graves said Stacey Eugene Johnson, 45, filed an application for clemency on Wednesday. The other inmate, Terrick Nooner, did not file an application by Monday's noon deadline.

Of the eight men whose execution dates were set this month by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Johnson is the first to apply for clemency. Neither Bruce Earl Ward nor Don Davis, both scheduled to be put to death on Oct. 21, applied for clemency by a Sept. 21 deadline. The executions would be the first in Arkansas in almost a decade.

Johnson's application is scheduled to be considered in a hearing on Oct. 15, Graves said. He will get a chance to present his case, the state will put forth a case against clemency, and any family members of the victim will be given time to address the board.

Johnson was convicted of the 1993 death of Carol Heath in De Queen, who was found beaten, strangled and with her throat slit. Her two children, ages 2 and 6 at the time, were home during the killing.

Graves said Monday he did not know yet if any family members planned to testify.

"We will have a better sense of how that portion of the hearing will flow once we get into October," he said. "There's no (limit) for how long that hearing is going to take. Given the nature of what we're dealing with, we're not going to cut anybody off."

Graves said the Arkansas Attorney General's office is reviewing Johnson's clemency application to determine if any of it may be released under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said Monday the office plans to file a written response to the application and that a determination on the Freedom of Information request will be made in the next few days.

Inmates scheduled to be executed have until 40 days before the execution to file a clemency application. Clemency can be granted in two forms— a pardon, which is total forgiveness of the crimes, or a reduction in the criminal sentence.

Ward and Davis were granted an extension at the board's discretion because 40 days before the execution fell soon after Hutchinson scheduled the dates. Solomon said the board has the discretion to make exceptions in the "interest of justice."

After the clemency hearing is complete, the board will make a decision within 72 hours. That recommendation for or against clemency will go to Hutchinson for the final say. Hutchinson's spokesman, J.R. Davis, said there is no timeline for when the governor must decide on a clemency recommendation other than before the set time of execution.

Four more inmates are scheduled to be executed in December and January.

Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for the eight inmates scheduled for execution as well as a ninth death row inmate whose execution has not been set, has said he plans to file motions to request the executions be stayed.

He represents the inmates in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a secrecy law that went into effect this year, which allows the state to keep the source of its lethal injection drugs a secret.