Behind The Walls of Cummins Unit in Grady Where Death Row Prisoners Take Final Breath

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The BBC, Canadian and Swedish media outlets and reporters from all major networks have converged on the small town of Grady, Arkansas to see death row inmates take their last breath. That’s not what happened on Monday night after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state supreme court for Don Davis’ stay of execution.

“We are moving forward with the executions set for Thursday of Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson and the following week we anticipate litigation,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

Journalists, like our own Channing Barker, spent Monday night on the Cummins prison grounds for the executions. The Department of Correction offered bologna sandwiches and strawberry cake, presumably the same bologna served to prisoners, and the same strawberry cake Davis requested for his last meal. We were all in a holding pattern, without cell phones, only laptops and cameras allowed beyond the wire fences. Three journalists, one print, one member of the Associated Press and one journalist in TV or radio, were chosen to watch Davis’ execution. Just as soon as they headed to the death chamber, they were on their way back. 

“We never even left the car neither did the van full of witnesses in front of us. The vans reverse lights came on our driver got back in the car pulled back out and left that area,” said Bobby Ampezzan, Managing Editor for Arkansas Public Media. 

Just minutes before midnight, uncertainty still hung in the air. It was eerie as everyone on the prison grounds and on social media waited for word on if Don Davis would get at least one more night of life.

 “All we can do is prepare. All we can do is Continue to fight for those families of the victims who deserve justice and justice in Arkansas that was provided by a jury was capital punishment and that is the sentence,” said JR Davis, Governor Hutchinson’s Spokesperson. “The fact of the matter is a jury in Arkansas under Arkansas law provided these families with a sentence and that is what they expect that is the justice many of them are looking for.”

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