Judge to consider Arkansas’ plan to execute 7 in 11 days

Judge to consider Arkansas' plan to execute 7 in 11 days

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas is preparing to execute seven death row inmates in 11 days because it wants to carry out the sentences before its supply of an execution drug expires May 1.

Judge Kristine Baker, who was appointed to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by President Barack Obama, will consider the legality of Arkansas’ aggressive plan this week. Since joining the court in 2012, she has made key rulings on abortion and gay marriage, but she hasn’t handled a death penalty case of this magnitude. Here’s a look at her background:

___

THE JUDGE

Baker, 46, earned two degrees from Saint Louis University and a law degree in 1996 from the University of Arkansas.

From 1996 to 1998, Baker was a clerk for the chief judge, Susan Webber Wright, on the federal court where Baker now sits. During that time, Wright handled Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton and also reversed the death sentence of a man convicted of killing his former in-laws. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Si-Fu William Frank Parker’s death sentence and he was ultimately executed.

Baker later became a partner at the Quattlebaum, Grooms, Tull & Burrow law firm in Little Rock, where she worked in commercial litigation, employment law and Freedom of Information cases. She also helped represent The Associated Press in an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking records to determine which state employees were editing Wikipedia pages on state time.

___

MAJOR DECISIONS

Baker has had a hand in key decisions on several social issues in Arkansas. In 2014 she ruled that Arkansas’ gay marriage ban was unconstitutional and a year later, she blocked an Arkansas law that would have restricted the use of abortion pills.

In 2016, she ruled that the state couldn’t block Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood because of secretly recorded and heavily edited videotapes made by anti-abortion activists that showed discussions over the sale of fetal tissue for profit.

___

WHAT THEY SAY

After the Senate confirmed Baker’s judgeship in 2012, Republican Sen. John Boozman predicted she’d be successful in her new role.

“She has the right mix of character, experience and legal knowledge to serve the people of Arkansas well,” the Arkansas senator said.

Conner Eldridge, who clerked at Baker’s law firm 15 years ago and went on to become the U.S. attorney for western Arkansas before an unsuccessful Senate run, praised her work ethic.

“She’ll work around the clock if she needs to to get the right result for this,” Eldridge said Friday, noting that he didn’t have any cases before Baker while he was a prosecutor.

___

WHAT SHE HAS SAID

At her confirmation hearing in 2012, after a Republican senator noted that she had supported Democratic candidates, Baker rejected any notion that politics would influence her.

“I don’t believe political beliefs or personal views have any role in the position of a district court judge,” she said.

At the same hearing, describing her work among prisoners and the indigent, she said she would “be patient and treat them with respect” as a judge.

“Most litigants, win or lose, remember how they are treated” by a judge, she said.

___

THE ISSUE

Baker must rule whether the state’s plan to execute seven prisoners from April 17 through April 27 would violate their rights to meaningful counsel and access to the courts. Several lawyers and public defenders represent multiple inmates, prompting complaints they could be spread thin while fighting for their clients’ lives on separate fronts, particularly the parole board and state and federal courts.

“Our country does not participate in mass executions,” lawyers for the inmates have said. “Execution schedules (like Arkansas’) do not respect the innate dignity of the condemned.”

The state maintains that the men committed horrendous crimes and that justice would be served by carrying out their executions. State officials say the court challenge is a ploy to push the executions to May 1 or later, when they would be effectively stopped because the state’s supply of midazolam will have expired.

___

Follow Kelly P. Kissel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kisselAP and go to http://bigstory.ap.org/author/kelly-p-kissel to see his work.

Kelly P. Kissel, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Opioids, meth, firearms seized at known Chilliwack drug house

Home on Broadway Avenue raided on Feb. 15 where homicide occurred Jan. 31

GW Graham basketball girls savour Fraser Valley championship

It’s been a long wait for the Grizzlies, who lost the FV title game the last two seasons.

Chilliwack Curling Club holding open house

If you’ve ever wanted to try the sport, the club invites you to take the plunge this weekend.

Chilliwack MLA John Martin says NDP budget will hurt business, punish taxpayers

‘Family-owned businesses will struggle to respond to this’

Chilliwack-Kent MLA decries ‘classic, big tax-and-spend’ NDP budget

Laurie Throness says budget relies on strong economy but contains no ideas to help it grow

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

Alberta takes out full-page ads in B.C. over strained relationship

It’s the latest move between the two provinces over progress on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

B.C. teacher suspended over allegedly using N-word in worksheets

Trafalgar Elementary teacher under investigation by Vancouver School Board

Toddler swept away in Ontario floods

Toddler missing as flooding forces thousands from their homes in Ontario

BC BUDGET: New money helps seniors’ care shortage

Job stability for care aides key to recruitment, union leader says

Mixed messages on B.C.’s efforts to cool hot housing market

Economist says undersupply of homes in Metro Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna will keep prices high

Foot found near Victoria belonged to missing Washington man

Coroner says no foul play suspected in death of 79-year-old Stanley Okumoto

Questions raised over B.C. NDP’s childcare budget plan

Advocates concerned how to fill 22,000 new spaces for early childhood educators

B.C. family first to receive reimbursement for life-altering arthritis drug

Effective medication used to treat rare form of juvenile arthritis costs $19,000 a month

Most Read