KASU

Arkansas

Arkansas-born, best selling author John Grisham penned an editorial in USA Today calling for a stop to Arkansas’s plan to kill eight death row inmates from April 17th to 27th. One inmate has a stay on his sentence. 

"It's punishment. We are going to take a person who's helpless and we're going to kill him. Why? Because he deserves it," says New York Law School professor Robert Blecker on the death penalty.

Blecker is the author of The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice Among the Worst of the Worst.

A federal judge has granted an injunction in the execution of Jason F. McGehee, one of the eight Arkansas inmates scheduled to be executed later this month.

Marshall denied requests for injunctions for five other condemned men whom the parole board did not recommend clemency.

Talk Business & Politics

Plans to build a 165-room Hyatt Place Hotel and an adjoining 78,000-square-foot convention center near Jonesboro’s hotel row off Caraway Road are in peril. Dirt work has been begun at the site, but liens have already been placed against the property, according to the city’s A&P Commission.

Arkansas-based retail giant Wal-Mart in its re-organization of the Walmart U.S. technology division is eliminating around 300 jobs in the Information Systems Division (ISD).

What's it like inside the Arkansas Governor's Mansion as executions are carried out? As the state prepares to resume executions after a 12 year hiatus, with eight inmates scheduled to die by lethal injection this month, KUAR reached out to someone who has inside knowledge.

While courts can certainly intervene, before the execution process begins, the governor is asked by prison officials one final time whether to proceed.

Death penalty laws are on the books in 31 states, but only five carried out executions last year. Now Arkansas is rushing to execute death row inmates at an unprecedented pace this month, before the state's supply of lethal drugs expires.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — After two weeks of surveying farmers for its annual farm production forecasts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it expects Arkansas farmers to plant 500,000 acres of cotton, up from 375,000 last year.

Bill Robertson, a cotton agronomist with the University of Arkansas System's Agriculture Division, says he is surprised by the numbers. The division works with the department in gathering the estimates.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' parole board is suggesting that Gov. Asa Hutchinson extend mercy to one of eight inmates scheduled to die in a series of double-executions this month.

The Republican governor is not bound by the board's recommendation Wednesday that he spare Jason McGehee's life. The 40-year-old inmate was convicted of killing a teenager who had told police about a theft ring operating in far northern Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas health panel has recommended limiting coverage of opioid prescriptions in health plans that cover tens of thousands of state employees and teachers.

 A lawyer for Arkansas death row inmates scheduled for execution later this month is arguing the state's accelerated timeline is subverting the state's clemency hearing protocol, functionally eliminating a public input period for the condemned men.

Public defender Julie Vandiver made that argument today inside federal Judge D.P. Marshall Jr.'s courtroom in Little Rock.

  Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court today stayed a lower court's ruling that the Arkansas Department of Corrections must release information about the drugs expected to be used in the executions.

Taking a stand inside Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, President Donald Trump on March 28th signed an executive order releasing the coal, oil and natural gas industries from pollution mitigation and thresholds set forth by the previous administration.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters, including industry executives and coal miners, Trump said his Energy Independence Executive Order fulfills a campaign promise for a "new energy revolution."

"Today, I'm taking bold action to follow through on that promise. My administration is putting an end to the war on coal.  We're going to have clean coal, really clean coal.  With today’s executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations. … And we're going to have safety, we're going to have clean water, we're going to have clear air."

Arkansas Department of Education

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key is pleased to announce that Dr. Ivy Pfeffer has been named deputy commissioner. Pfeffer, the current assistant commissioner for Educator Effectiveness and Licensure, will assume her new role July 1. She replaces Dr. Mark Gotcher, who accepted the superintendent position at the Russellville School District effective July 1. 

POCAHONTAS, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas community college has been placed on probation after a regional accrediting agency said it didn't meet three criteria related mostly to assessing student learning and could fail another five.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2nP9vUe) reports Black River Technical College must provide evidence to the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission that it's worked on the criteria by July 1, 2018. The Pocahontas community college must also host an on-site visit no later than September 2018.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Economic conditions in nine Midwest and Plains states remains healthy, despite a slight slip in a monthly survey of business supply managers, an economist said in a report released Monday.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index report said the overall economic index for the region dropped to 60.1 in March from 60.5 in February. It's the first index decline in five months.

To the eight men scheduled to be executed over 10 days this month by the state of Arkansas, the question is when. When will they die? On the day and time of the state's choosing — April 17, 20, 24 and 27 — or some later date, dependent on a court-ordered stay of their execution? For others without more than a passing interest in the news, the question might be why, followed by how.

How does the state end the life of an inmate, without pain but without error?

In Arkansas's case, the answer, for better or worse, is lethal injection. 

Sara Gullickson flew in from Arizona to voice her concerns at the Medical Marijuana Commission's first public hearing today in Little Rock.

"I really, really strongly urge Arkansas to consider for the dispensaries running a merit based program instead of a lottery based program. Lottery based programs definitely breed litigation, program delays, and really don’t set the state up for success."

A bill to create educational savings accounts for Arkansas students failed in the Arkansas House today on a 46 to 39 vote Friday.

The so-called “Parental Choice Program,” SB 746, was not written to be a traditional vouchers program financed directly by the state. Instead it would have created non-profit organizations to funnel contributions from taxpayers and corporations to parents for their children’s school of choice. Donors to those organizations would get a 65 percent tax credit at an estimated $3 million annual cost to the state for three of a four-year pilot.

Arkansas is set to conduct four double executions over ten days this month. That's already an unprecedented rate and in some states, like Oklahoma, double executions aren't even allowed.

In part two of our conversation with Sean Murphy, who covers executions for the Associated Press out of Oklahoma, Karen Tricot Steward talks to him about witnessing the highly publicized botched execution of Clayton Lockett. That execution used the same controversial sedative Arkansas will use and put an end to back-to-back killings in that state. 

A beleaguered bid in the Arkansas Legislature to collect sales taxes from online purchases from companies without a physical presence in the state narrowly failed in the House on Monday. Representative Dan Douglas, a Republican from Bentonville, said it didn’t make sense to collect a tax on his blue jeans at a local store but not when he bought them online.

“They’re the same brand of blue jeans, the same style, the same size, used on the same fat body for the same purpose and they didn’t collect sales tax,” said Douglas. “Now is that fair?”

Controversy continues over Arkansas's rush to conduct four double executions in four days this month.

One issue raising concern is the use of the common sedative midazolam, marketed under the trade name Versed. The drug has been tied to botched executions where inmates wake up during the procedure. Some states have stopped using it altogether for lethal injections.

KUAR News spoke with Sean Murphy in Oklahoma, who covers executions for the Associated Press. He witnessed the highly publicized botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014.

A report released on Thursday by one of the nation’s top law schools concludes the state of Arkansas has ignored the mental states and legal representation of eight death row inmates scheduled to die next month. It’s the latest wrinkle in the state’s drive to kill eight inmates in 10 days.

The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday allowing state universities to prohibit concealed carry license holders from bringing handguns into “collegiate athletic events.” SB724 would also allow the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas State Hospital to prohibit firearms. The bill passed the House on a 71-20 vote.  A previous version already passed the Senate.

Last month, Medical Marijuana Commissioner Carlos Roman, an anesthesiologist, joked that the appropriate venue for the commission's first public hearing Friday would be Verizon Arena, the 18,000-seat venue for touring Top 40 musical acts, circuses and monster truck rallies.

Instead, the commission got the UA Little Rock's Bowen School of Law — larger than the modest fifth-floor conference room inside 1515 W. 7th St. where the meetings have been, still smaller than the anticipated crowd.

The commission has received dozens of email comments already, a large number asking the body to rethink its plan for a lottery to pick 32 Arkansans to open retail storefronts for medical marijuana.

Echo Soza lives at Our House, a homeless shelter for the working poor in Little Rock. The 47-year-old housekeeper was uninsured a few years ago when she had a stroke.    

“I actually was hospitalized and then lost my housing and then came here,” she says.  

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