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Judge Joins in on Death Penalty Protest

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen Disciplined for Similar Actions in 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Deja vu outside the Governor's Mansion Monday night as Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen joined anti-death penalty protesters in their demonstrations.

Very similar rallies, in which Griffen also participated in, took place this time last year to protest against the state's scheduling of eight executions in the span of 10 days. Four death row inmates were put to death in the span of a week last April.

Both last year and Monday night, Griffen strapped himself to a cot and lay motionless as a display against capital punishment. After his actions in 2017, the judge, who is also a Baptist preacher, was barred from hearing death penalty cases. Griffen's only words Monday night when asked about his actions were "we are still killing."

At least one lawmaker has publicly condemned Griffen's display of protest. State Senator Trent Garner (R - District 27) called for his impeachment Monday night on social media. From Twitter:

""What a pathetic and depressing display by Judge Griffen. He has disgraced the office that he holds for years and now is using a desperate, attention seeking move to further bring shame on himself. I'm calling on House leadership to bring articles of impeachment immediately."

There were calls in 2017 for Griffen's impeachment as well.

Griffen's attorney Michael Laux argues the judge's actions are protected under the First Amendment. A federal judge ruled earlier this month that Griffen cannot sue the Arkansas Supreme Court as a single entity for barring him from hearing execution-related cases. However, that same judge said Griffen can sue the individual justices and those lawsuits still stand.

While Griffen spoke few words at Monday night's rally, other members and supporters of Abolish Arkansas had much to say.

Demonstrators like Katie Mann argue the death penalty is unjustly cruel, is not cost effective, and doesn't actually deter violent crime.

Mann has spent nearly two decades contemplating the morality of capital punishment. Her mother was ruthless murdered in Tennessee 17 years ago. Mann says a suspect was just recently arrested, and is set to go on trial in the near future. Despite all the pain her mother's killer inflicted, Mann doesn't feel a death sentence would do justice.

"My four kids don't have a grandmother, and I can't change that. The state can't change that by killing my mom's murdered," Mann explained. "I just wish we didn't have the death penalty. I wish that light would drive out darkness."

Arkansas does not currently have the drug supply needed for its lethal injection protocol. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has not asked the governor to set execution dates.

29 inmates currently sit on death row.

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