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House Rejects Family Execution Witness Bill

The Arkansas House failed legislation on Tuesday that would have allowed family members of a murder victim to witness an execution.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas House failed legislation on Tuesday that would have allowed family members of a murder victim to witness an execution.

SB 52 would require the Arkansas Department of Correction to provide space for the family members of murder victims to be able to witness an execution alongside designated members of the media and legal counsel for the inmate.

Needing 51 votes to clear the House, it picked up only 48.

Representative Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville) told House colleagues Tuesday that Texas and Oklahoma have similar legislation in place.

"This is a rare thing, but if we can offer the victims of this horrible, horrible situation some closure I think we owe it to them," Dotson says.

But concerns on the House floor persisted around the legality of the legislation.

Representative John Walker (D-Little Rock) voted against the bill and said the legislation does not provide the family of the inmate similar privileges.

"What is there to prevent this from being another reason for delaying an execution in the first place by way of a lawsuit? I just think that it's fraught with problems," Walker says.

The bill sponsor will have another opportunity to bring the legislation back up for another vote, but it wasn't immediately clear if that would happen.

If it passes the House, the bill would go to Governor Mike Beebe where he could either sign or veto the legislation.
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