LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – A federal judge on Thursday blocked the death sentence of 40-year-old Jason McGehee, who was to be executed by lethal injection along with seven other condemned Arkansas inmates later this month.
U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. said in his ruling that McGehee is entitled to more time after the Arkansas Parole Board recommended that Gov. Asa Hutchinson grant his request for clemency. A 30-day comment period began Wednesday and will not run out until after the state’s supply of midazolam expires at the end of April.
McGehee was one of eight Arkansas death-row inmates set to be put to death in pairs in the span of just 10 days between April 17 and 27.
Six in the group filed two federal lawsuits last week seeking to block their executions, but the judge’s ruling Thursday stops only McGehee’s execution. The group argued in part that the hurried execution schedule did not allow the state enough time to comply with its own laws and regulations over the clemency process.
While Judge Marshall said Thursday the state’s work was “beyond imperfect,” he found that the other five inmates’ clemency hearings “were not a sham,” according to an Associated Press report.
Lawyers for the five unsuccessful inmates told the Associated Press they would appeal.
The state parole board had recommended that that the governor reject four clemency requests. McGehee’s is the only request found to have merit.
Another clemency request by condemned killer Jack Jones is scheduled to be heard Friday. Two other inmates did not file for clemency.
McGehee has been on death row for the brutal murder and kidnapping of a 15-year-old boy in 1996 that he committed with two others when he was 20 years old.
Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said in a statement that the attorney general’s office 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.”
“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,” Deere said.
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday also denied requests to stay the executions of Stacey Eugene Johnson and Ledell Lee.
The other Arkansas inmates scheduled for execution are Bruce Ward, Don Davis, Marcel Williams and Kenneth Williams.