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Arkansas parole board suggests mercy for one of eight inmates due to be executed

The parole board in Arkansas has suggested that governor Asa Hutchinson extend mercy to one of eight inmates scheduled to die in a series of double executions this month.

The Republican governor is not bound by the board's recommendation that he spare Jason McGehee's life.

The 40-year-old inmate was convicted of killing a teenager who had told police about a theft ring operating in far northern Arkansas.

The state has adopted an unprecedented execution schedule with its plan to put eight men to death in a 10-day period.

Only Texas has executed that many inmates in a month, doing it twice in 1997.

In a separate decision, the board said a petition by Kenneth Williams was without merit. Williams was condemned after escaping and killing a man who lived near the prison.

The board, in a 6-1 vote, said Mr Hutchinson should spare McGehee's life, whose execution is set for April 27 over the death of 15-year-old Johnny Melbourne Jr.

The board did not offer a reason for the recommendation, but former Department of Correction director Ray Hobbs spoke in favour of clemency for McGehee, 40, at a hearing last week, saying he had gotten to know the inmate while making his rounds in prison.

"He has learned his lesson, and he still has value that can be given to others if his life is spared," Mr Hobbs said.

The board's chairman, John Felts, was the lone dissenting vote. He said McGehee's death sentence was not excessive considering the inmate had directed the torture and strangulation death of the teenager.

With a key lethal injection drug expiring at the end of the month, Arkansas hopes to execute eight men in the 10-day period beginning on April 17. Seven executions in a month would still be a record for Arkansas.

AP

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