ACLU and Arkansas Anti-Death Penalty Coalition Decry Execution of Mother Slated to Die Tonight

Affiliate: ACLU of Arkansas
May 2, 2000 12:00 am

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ACLU of Arkansas
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LITTLE ROCK, AR -- At a time when Americans nationwide are voicing grave concerns about the fair and appropriate application of the death penalty, Arkansas today stands poised to execute a woman for the first time in more than 100 years.

In a letter sent to Governor Mike Huckabee, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas urged a reprieve for Christina Riggs, scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 9:00 p.m. tonight.

While the wrenching facts about Riggs' attempted suicide and the death of her two children by her own hand are undisputed, a review of the extenuating circumstances surrounding the tragedy reveal that Riggs' severe mental illness and violations of her due process rights were not fully taken into account during her trial.

The ACLU said that in addition to is fundamental objections to any execution, these two factors should be considered grounds for a reprieve.

"First of all, Christina was mentally incompetent at the time of the murders and is incapable even now of asking for help. She is so distraught about her actions that she has said she wants to die so she can be with her babies," said Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas.

"Second, serious errors occurred at the trial, including the admission of a statement given by Christina while in a drugged, hallucinatory state; she was so drugged, in fact, that the doctor who visited her immediately after the statement found her unconscious," Sklar said. "That this statement was admitted is unbelievable. It is hard to imagine what would have been admissible."

Even though Riggs has waived all appeals and not asked for clemency, Sklar and other members of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty have sent letters to the Governor asking for clemency or at least a stay of the execution to give Riggs time to consider her options.

The ACLU and other anti-death penalty groups plan a candlelight vigil this evening with a procession to the Governor's Mansion.

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