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 US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by President Barack Obama, will consider the legality of the state's aggressive plan this week, the AP reports. 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. Baker must rule whether the plan to execute seven prisoners from April 17 through April 27 would violate their rights to meaningful counsel and access to the courts.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, has been targeted by anti-death penalty activists, with protesters holding nightly vigils outside his mansion in Little Rock, the Los Angeles Times reports. "This many executions just creates a huge, huge risk for a botched execution, which will lead to suffering," says Furonda Brasfield of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "It's truly unheard of for a state to do this." The state is short of witnesses for the executions, and critics such as Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Paul Greenberg are calling for Hutchinson to attend the lethal injections. (Last week, a federal judge blocked an eighth execution.)