Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed confidence Thursday in the state's planning leading up to the scheduled executions of seven inmates by lethal injection.
Hutchinson's remarks were made during a news conference at the Governor's Mansion for in-state journalists, and came four days before the start of executions over an 11-day span.
The Republican governor opened Thursday's news conference detailing the crimes committed by each of the inmates facing death this month, and later emphasized the potential for closure for the victims' families that have spent decades in court and in subsequent hearings.
“It did not begin when I became governor. It did not begin when I set these executions,” Hutchinson said. “It began over 25 years ago in most of these cases.”
Hutchinson said that while each of the cases could require additional scrutiny, or even commutations, as the prisoners' deaths draw near, he "doesn't expect that to happen."
"I would not foreclose anything because you have to keep those options open," Hutchinson said.
Pressed on the controversial use of midazolam, which has been used in botched executions out of state, Hutchinson said that Arkansas is following the procedure it’s obligated to follow. He added that the drug "can be done right."
“You’ve got to remember that it’s not an option of midazolam or something else,” Hutchinson said. “The courts have approved this three-drug protocol that has been set by the legislature.”
The executions could have been spread out over months, but that wouldn’t have made a difference in the view of opponents, Hutchinson said.
“When I set those [execution dates], I thought not only about the process and responsibility, but I also thought about the victims and what they had endured,” he said.
Acknowledging his Christian faith and the role it plays in decision-making, Hutchinson said that he has a responsibility to "God and eternity."
"From my standpoint, I have two convictions: One, that I think the death penalty is an appropriate punishment in the most serious and heinous crimes in our society," he said. "Secondly, I have a duty as governor to execute the laws of our state."
Hutchinson said he visited the Varner Unit on Wednesday, where he reviewed the execution procedure and spoke with Arkansas Department of Correction personnel.
Bruce Ward and Don Davis are the first inmates scheduled to die by lethal injection. Their executions are set for Monday.
The deaths of five other prisoners — Ledell Lee, Stacey Johnson, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams and Kenneth Williams — are also set before the end of April.
Read Friday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.