Bill would put victim’s family among execution witnesses


LITTLE ROCK — Relatives of the victim in a death-penalty case would be guaranteed the right to witness the convict’s execution under legislation filed Wednesday.

Senate Bill 52 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, would grant any parent or step-parent, adult sibling or step sibling and adult child or stepchild a place among those designated to witness the execution.

Relatives, if they chose, would join the state prison director or a designee, the prison official in charge of medical services or a designee, the condemned person’s lawyer and spiritual adviser, and a number of citizens determined by the director — no fewer than six nor more than 12 — “whose presence is necessary to verify that the execution was conducted in the manner required by law.”

Current law limits the number of execution witnesses to 30. Hester’s bill would allow the number to go higher if necessary to accommodate family members of the victim.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.