I suspect that most governors get a bit of personal satisfaction from signing death warrants for condemned prisoners. Taking responsibility for ending the life of another human being, in a perfectly legal manner, adds a bit of machismo to a perennial candidate's political cachet.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is a case in point. The Republican, who is a Bob Jones University graduate, has been in office two years but has yet to preside over the execution of a single individual. In fact, career politicians in Arkansas have not had their blood lust sated since the state's last execution, way back in the dark ages of 2005. Since then the state's death row has been suffering a human clog as legal challenges and difficulty in obtaining the proper drugs to snuff a life have snarled the process.
But those problems have now been surmounted, at least temporarily, and Governor Hutchinson has his sweaty little palm on the pen ready to begin signing death warrants with wild abandon.
However, there is another problem on the horizon. The state uses a three-drug cocktail to exterminate prisoners. The state's supply of Midazolam, one of the drugs used in the cocktail, is set to expire at the end of April, and the state is unsure if it will be able to find more of that drug or a suitable replacement. Midazolam has been at the center of some botched and very gruesome lethal injection scandals in other states. There are eight prisoners who have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting death at the hands of the state, and Arkansas is loathe to wait any longer.
To get the job done, the state of Arkansas is planning to execute the eight in an orgasmic ten-day span during the month of April. Governor Hutchinson says that he wishes the deaths could be spread out over a longer and more suitable period of time, but he has to work with what he's got. So get those gurney's lined up and start them rolling because the great state of Arkansas has a deadline to meet!
(A few family notes: Governor Hutchinson is a former congressman from Arkansas (one who helped make the presentation to the Senate during the Clinton impeachment process) and the Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration during the presidency of George W. Bush. He is the younger brother of Tim Hutchinson, a former congressman and one-term U.S. Senator from Arkansas and another graduate of Bob Jones University. Asa and Tim are both natives of Bentonville, the home of Walmart and the Walton family. Tim has a pair of identical twin sons currently serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives.
Another Arkansas politician also made national news this week. State Representative Kim Hendren of Gravette, a neighboring community to Bentonville, introduced legislation in the Arkansas House that would ban the teaching of any books by Howard Zinn in all Arkansas public schools. Zinn, a revisionist historian, relates tales of American history from the perspective of ordinary and oppressed peoples, points of view sometimes at odds with more traditional narratives. Hendren, a seventy-eight-year-old car dealer, is married to Asa and Tim's sister.
All politics remain local, particularly in Arkansas!)