Judge Kristine Baker, appointed to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by President Barack Obama, is about to rule on the legality of executing seven inmates before the state’s supply of midazolam expires at the end of the month. Arkansas hasn’t executed anyone since 2005. (I’m not sure what these inmates did but the state’s plan feels like they are treating these impending deaths like nothing more than milk that’s gone bad.)
Baker was a clerk for the chief judge on the federal court where she now sits from 1996 to 1998. At that time she handled Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton and reversed the death sentence of a man convicted of killing his former in-laws.
She later became a partner at Quattlebaum, Grooms, Tull & Burrow 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. In other words, she knows her stuff.
A longtime friend who is a former U.S. attorney for eastern Arkansas said, “If she has to rely on the fact there is no precedent, she is someone who is certainly able and confident in making a decision that is perhaps a logical extension of existing law.”
What is at stake is whether or not 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.”
From the article:
“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.'”
Do you agree?
The state says that because the men committed horrendous crimes justice would be served by carrying out their executions; state officials see the court challenge as a ploy to delay the executions until May 1 or later, when the state’s supply of midazolam will have expired.