LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The state of Arkansas is struggling to find enough volunteers to witness eight death row inmate executions scheduled in April.
Witnesses are required to ensure that the execution is carried out according to law, but so far volunteers are scarce.
“It’s a very sobering thought,” says Bill Booker acting as substitute president of the Little Rock Rotary Club.
At Tuesday’s meeting Booker says after a presentation by Wendy Kelley, Director of the Department of Correction, she casually asked the audience to volunteer as citizen witnesses for the state’s upcoming executions.
“Temporarily there was a little laugh from the audience because they thought she might be kidding,” says Booker. “It quickly became obvious that she was not kidding.”
Eight inmates are scheduled to receive the death penalty between April 17th and 27th. State law says six to twelve citizen volunteers must be present at the executions in order for them to take place, but right now the state is short volunteers.
“I could understand not even wanting to read about these occurrences let alone have to be in the room or watching,” says Michelle Frost, a Little Rock resident.
Frost is not sure how she feels about the death penalty, but is sure she would not want to witness an execution.
Solomon Graves, spokesperson for the Department of Correction, says they are taking an informal approach to find those witnesses and are confident they will be able to do so by the set dates.
Marianne McKinney supports the death penalty. She says “they made their decisions and have to suffer the consequences.” McKinney believes the inmates on death row have been rightly convicted and would not mind witnessing an execution.
“I know it may seem cold, but we need justice on our streets to protect us,” says McKinney. “I don’t think it’d bother me at all.”
The Department of Correction says nothing prohibits a volunteer from witnessing more than one execution.
The Attorney General’s office released a statement saying: “She’s fully committed to working with the Governor and the Department of Correction to ensure that the law is followed as executions are carried out.”
If you want to sign up to volunteer as a witness you can write to the DOC Director.
Arkansas Department of Correction
Attn: Director Wendy Kelley PO Box 8701 Pine Bluff, AR 71611