Protest held ahead of Arkansas death row inmates executions

Protest held ahead of Arkansas death row inmates executions

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Protesters demonstrated at the Arkansas State Capitol Friday afternoon in a last-minute effort to save the lives of seven men on death row, all of whom the state plans to execute before April 30.

The protest started at 1:30 PM on the steps of the State Capitol building in Little Rock.

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Friday’s demonstration was organized by Damien Echols of the “West Memphis Three.” Echols was on death row after being convicted of the 1993 murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Ark. He was released from prison in 2011 after DNA evidence pointed to new suspects, bringing national scrutiny to the case.

“Am I scared?” Echols posted on Facebook: “More than I can say. I will be standing before the very people who tried to murder me.”

The seven planned executions is an unprecedented number of state-initiated deaths in such a short period of time in the United States. The state is rushing the seven convicted murderers to their death beds, because doses of the lethal injection drug expire on April 30.

Celebrity Johnny Depp, who fought to get Damien Echols out of prison, attended the rally Friday.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said the seven men on death row were sentenced to death by a jury of their peers, and it’s the state’s responsibility to execute them.

"It's been a 25-year nightmare for the victims that had to deal with this and now it's time for justice to be carried out,” Hutchinson said.

Each of the seven convicted murderers has been on death row for more than a decade.

Echols was joined by Jason Baldwin, another a member of the “West Memphis Three,” who was also released from prison in 2011. Jessie Misskelley, the third member of the trio, was not mentioned in Echols Facebook post about the protest.

“I'm asking you to come and stand next to me on the frontline of this battle,” Echols wrote. “My view is that murder is murder. You don't murder people to teach that murder is wrong, unless you are deeply, deeply stunted.”