Judge blocks execution of 1 of 8 Arkansas inmates

A federal judge has blocked the execution of death row inmate Jason McGehee. (Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Correction)

A federal judge has blocked the execution of one of the eight inmates Arkansas was planning to put to death this month.

U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. issued the decision Thursday in the case of Jason McGehee. The Arkansas Parole Board a day earlier had recommended that Gov. Asa Hutchinson grant mercy to McGehee. However, the law requires a period of 30 days for public comment, before the Parole Board makes the recommendation to the governor. McGehee is set to be executed on April 27, which is within the 30 day period.

In light of that scheduling conflict, Judge Marshall put an emergency stay on McGehee's execution, allowing the governor time to decide on the clemency recommendation.

Judge Marshall also dismissed death row inmate Bruce Ward from the case. Ward's attornies argued he missed the deadline to file because he was mentally unfit.

The judge ruled in favor of inmate Jack Jones' motion to intervene. He also missed the filing deadline, but Judge Marshall is allowing him to go forward in the case.

The other four men set to be executed lost their motions for a preliminary injunction. Judge Marshall found there was not enough evidence of violations of law to stop the executions from going forward at this time.

Arkansas attorney general spokesman Judd Deere tells KATV the attorney general could file an appeal in the 8th Circuit Court, but they're still discussing all the options available.

Deere released the following statement:

The victims’ families have waited far too long to see justice for their loved ones, and today’s decision from Judge Marshall allows all but one of the scheduled executions to move forward. Attorney General Rutledge will respond to any and all challenges that might occur between now and the executions as the prisoners continue to use all available means to delay their lawful sentences.

This is one of two federal lawsuits challenging the executions scheduled for the 8 Arkansas death row inmates this month. The other lawsuit is in front of Judge Kristine Baker and is set to begin hearings next week.

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