EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 51/98/96
EXTRA 187/96 Death Penalty 6 December 1996
USA (Arkansas) Paul RUIZ
The above three men are scheduled to be executed in Arkansas on 8 January 1997.
Paul Ruiz and Earl Denton were originally sentenced to death in 1977 for the
murder of Marvin Richie, a police officer, and Opal James, a federal park ranger.
At the time of the murders, Ruiz and Denton were escapees from an Oklahoma
prison where they were both serving life sentences. Their convictions and death
sentences were overturned on appeal and in 1979 they were retried and again
sentenced to death. The appeal courts overturned their death sentences but
both men were sentenced to death a third time after new sentencing hearings
Kirt Wainwright was sentenced to death in 1989 for the murder of Barbara Smith
during a robbery.
As of 31 July 1996 there were 42 prisoners under sentence of death in Arkansas.
The method of execution is lethal injection; prisoners sentenced to death
before 4 March 1983 may choose between lethal injection or electrocution. The
Governor of Arkansas has full clemency authority. However, all clemency
applications are referred to the Parole Board for investigation and
William Parker was the last prisoner to be executed in Arkansas on 8 August
1996. Twelve prisoners have been put to death since the state resumed
executions in 1990.
This is the second occasion on which Arkansas has scheduled three executions
on the same day. On 3 August 1994 Hoyt Clines, James Holmes and Darryl Richley
were executed; the three men were co-defendants. This was the first triple
execution in the US since California executed three prisoners on the same day
in 1962 (multiple executions were common in the US before the mid-1960s). In
1994, state authorities in Arkansas cited the reduction of stress on employees
involved in executions and the reduction of overtime payments as reasons for
carrying out the executions on the same day. A prison department spokesperson
was quoted as stating: "Nobody wants to get up in the morning and go kill
However, a spokesperson from the governor's office explained that the reason
Ruiz, Denton and Wainwright were all scheduled for execution on 8 January was
because "All three inmates came back from the Supreme Court with their appeals
denied at the same time, and that's the reason their executions were scheduled
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.