The unprecedented number of executions in Arkansas has put it squarely in the public’s eye. Arkansas conducted a rare double execution just a day ago, and now three more prisoner’s requests for commutation of their execution sentences have been denied by the Arkansas Parole Board.
Bobby Fretwell, Michael Henderson, and Heath Kennedy are all slated for execution, and their requests for commutation were denied today by the Arkansas Parole Board. The board declared their claims “without merit” and forwarded its recommendations to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison’s office for possible commutation.
In 1985, Bobby Fretwell was convicted of the murder of Sherman Sullins during a robbery. In 1985 Fretwell, his wife and a third accomplice stole a truck. They drove to a filling station in Searcy County, Arkansas where they stole a pistol and ammunition and a second truck. The second truck broke down and Fretwell went to the home of Sullins and knocked on the door. They chose Sullins’ home because he had a truck in the driveway.
Fretwell told Sullins he needed help and Sullins let him into his house. Fretwell produced the gun and robbed Sullins of personal property. He knocked Sullins to the ground and, after he stood up, shot him in the head. The trio stole Sullins’ truck, and they continued on a cross-country crime spree that ended with their arrest in Wyoming.
Michael Henderson was convicted of the 1994 murder of Billy Little and shooting of Arley Little in Pulaski County, Arkansas. The Littles owned a furniture business and regularly carried large sums of cash on them so they could buy items at auctions. On May 7, 1994, Henderson and two other accomplices decided to rob the Littles as they drove down a highway. Henderson shot at the vehicle three separate times to get Billy Little to stop, Arley Little was also hit by bullets. Billy died as a result of his injuries. Henderson’s accomplices testified Henderson planned the robbery and provided a.380 pistol and ski and ninja masks.
Heath Kennedy and Wade Miller, both of Norphlet, Arkansas, robbed a Subway sandwich in 1994. During the robbery, Kennedy shot and killed the only employee present, Leona Cameron. Cameron was pregnant at the time, new at the job, and was shot execution style, twice in the back of the head. Kennedy, who was only 18 at the time, was convicted of capital murder.
Arkansas had an unprecedented eight executions scheduled within a two-week period until courts issued stays on four of them. Arkansas was hoping to execute the prisoners before the drugs used in the lethal injection expired. Arkansas, and other states States are finding it hard to stock the drugs utilized in the execution procedure because pharmaceutical companies are voicing objections to their drugs being used for executions.
The decision by the Arkansas Parole Board isn’t the final step for the three men. The Arkansas governor’s office will make a decision based on their recommendation and the circumstances of each case. The prisoner’s attorneys will also file appeals up to the Supreme Court asking for clemency. This is standard procedure in execution cases.
Death penalty cases are expensive, they require an extraordinary amount of legal resources and money to prosecute and defend. Still, many of the victims’ families find relief and closure when the person who killed their loved one is executed.
Despite the unprecedented number of prisoners who are on death row and the two most recent executions, the prisoners have a good chance of never seeing the inside of a death chamber. Since 2000, the number of death row inmates being executed has been steadily dropping.
Public opinion of the executions shows varying support. Repeated Gallup polls show that, over the years, the support and opposition for execution have remained relatively similar. Meanwhile, a Pew Research poll seems to indicate that support for execution is dwindling.
[Featured Image by Sue Ogrocki/AP Images]