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2 Die by Lethal Injection as Third Awaits in Arkansas : Penalty: Inmates say the triple execution is like taking ‘hogs to the slaughter.’ But prison officials say it makes it easier on their staff.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The first two of three killers scheduled to be put to death Wednesday night in the nation’s first triple execution in 32 years received fatal injections after refusing to offer final words.

The three men had all argued in a late-hour appeal to the Supreme Court that they were being reduced to “hogs at the slaughter,” but the last execution was expected to follow the first two within hours.

“Nope,” was all Hoyt Clines and Darryl Richley said when asked if they had any last words. Then they were strapped to gurneys, about an hour apart, and the lethal doses of drugs were injected.

Minutes before Clines’ execution, a federal appeals court lifted a stay of execution granted for James Holmes. He had been scheduled for execution after Clines, but at the last minute prison officials dropped him to the third spot.

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Holmes, 37; Clines, 37; and Richley, 43, were scheduled to die one by one beginning at 5 p.m. PDT for killing a businessman in front of his family during a 1981 robbery.

Clines was pronounced dead at 5:11 p.m. and Richley died at 6:07 p.m., a state prison official announced. An appeal for Clines was denied at 4:55 p.m.

Two other appeals--one on behalf of all three men, the other for Richley--were also denied by the Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals had stayed Holmes’ execution Wednesday so he could have more time to pursue a separate appeal. But that stay was dissolved less than three hours later by an 8-3 decision of the full 8th Circuit.

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The three-judge panel had said Holmes should be granted additional time to appeal his conviction and death sentence on the basis of a new argument that his trial counsel was ineffective.

Before the last-minute change, the order of their executions was to have been determined by their prison serial numbers--Clines SK886; Holmes SK887; Richley SK888. Prison officials didn’t immediately say why they moved Holmes to the third spot.

The prison planned for 45 to 60 minutes between executions--enough time to carry the body out in a bag, wipe down the gurney and change the needle before the next man was brought in.

“This scheduled mass execution, by reducing human beings to hogs at the slaughter, will exponentially increase the level of fear, uncertainty and psychological stress that someone condemned normally experiences in the usual course of death,” the inmates said in their appeal.

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They also argued that it is unconstitutional for the state to “assess who they think is worthy of another hour or two of life.”

The state has said that multiple executions reduce overtime and stress on employees. “Nobody wants to get up in the morning and go kill somebody,” Correction Department spokesman Alan Ables said earlier this year.

But Diann Rust-Tierney, director of the Capital Punishment Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “To take mass execution as a model of efficiency only underscores how out of step we are with the rest of the world.”

The murder victim, Don Lehman, was beaten with a motorcycle chain and shot in the chest and head by four masked men who forced their way into his home, chased him down and held him on a bed. His wife was on the bedroom floor at the time.

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The fourth man convicted in the murder had his death sentence commuted to life in prison after a court ruled that hypnosis-induced testimony from the victim’s daughter may have affected his sentencing.

The nation’s last triple execution was Aug. 8, 1962, when three men went to the gas chamber in California. Arkansas put two prisoners to death for unrelated crimes on May 11 in the first double execution since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed capital punishment to resume.

On Feb. 1-2, 1951, Virginia sent eight men to the electric chair. Before that, at least 17 states executed four or more people in one day.

In 1862, federal officials in Mankato, Minn., hanged 38 Dakota Indians after the tribe declared war on the United States for failing to honor treaties.

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Six inmates have been executed in Arkansas, and 246 nationwide, since capital punishment resumed.

“I think what we’re about to witness in Arkansas is a shocking spectacle,” Rust-Tierney said. “The notion that Arkansas is getting into this assembly-line mentality doesn’t fit in with our societal respect for life.”

Ables’ response to the opponents: “If anybody is going to be criticizing us, it’s nice to be criticized for being efficient.

“The people that are involved in this are very concerned that what they do is proper, (done) professionally and with decorum,” he said. “They want this to go well.”

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