The debt collector comes to Death Row | Arkansas Blog

The debt collector comes to Death Row


Checking court records for developments in the pending execution cases, I came across a piece of bookkeeping minutia. Wheels of justice grind fine, they say.

It was an order Friday from federal Magistrate Thomas Ray, who'd been deputized to determine filing fees to be paid by seven Death Row inmates challenging the constitutionality of the clemency process in their cases. They were allowed to proceed as paupers, with federal public defenders.

But federal law requires even impoverished prisoners to pay a full case filing fee. It's meant to deter frivolous actions. And the courts generally don't allow prisoners in consolidated cases, as this one is, to pay a single filing fee. Each must pay the full charge. There are exceptions, however, and Magistrate Ray decided a single $350 filing fee would do in this case.

Here, imposing a $350 filing fee on each indigent plaintiff would result in them collectively being responsible for paying the princely sum of $2,450 to pursue a single action in which they all seek to vindicate essentially the same constitutional rights. Such a result would be inequitable ...

So, that left each of the seven responsible for $350. They put up all they had available and came up with $270.74 in these amounts:

Ledell Lee, $39.70; Jason McGehee, $136.70; Stacy Johnson, $23.87; Bruce Ward, $11.53; Marcel Williams, $29.62; Kenneth Williams, $7.63, and Jack Harold Jones Jr., $21.70.

That left $79.25.

Ray ordered that inmates pay the balance in monthly installments taken from their prison trust accounts whenever the balance in any of their accounts exceeded $10. The monthly payments must be 20 percent of an account's previous month's income, he ruled.

The order doesn't discuss the possibility that the executioner might arrive before additional amounts are credited to inmate accounts.

Six of the seven lost, this particular challenge, by the way. Jason McGehee got a temporary execution stay.

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