BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) - Two legislators from Benton County say they'll push for a law allowing families of crime victims to watch in person as the convict who murdered their loved one is executed.
Rep.-elect Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, said her family wanted to view the execution of the man who raped and killed her 12-year-old daughter but were told they couldn't observe it in person.
"You get there and you don't know that you have to sit in a stuffy warden's office alone with your family, it was heartbreaking," Petty said.
They would have been allowed to watch on a closed-circuit television screen in the warden's prison office, but Petty said she wanted the option to be in a room near the death chamber viewing it in person.
"For my peace and my comfort as a crime victim, I want to see to her last bit of business on this planet," Petty said.
The convicted killer's execution was called off after he sought legally to halt it, however, and he now is one of 31 inmates on Arkansas' death row.
Petty said she pre-filed legislation on Dec. 17 called Andi's Law, named after her daughter, Andi Brewer, allowing crime-victim families to watch executions in person. The Legislature convenes in January 2015, but lawmakers can have bills drafted ahead of time.
Arkansas conduct of execution guidelines prohibit crime-victim families from watching prisoners being killed in person.
Those observing the execution in person can be a lawyer for the convict being executed, a spiritual adviser of the convict's or other people designated by the director of the Department of Correction.
The prison facility in Gould where executions take place has about 16 chairs in it, according to Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Department of Correction.
The family of the convict being put to death is also prohibited from viewing the execution. If they show up, they are held at a roadblock about one mile from the prison in Gould, according to Tyler.
Petty said she doesn't know if she would choose to watch the execution of her daughter's killer in person, but she wanted the choice to be available to her and others in a similar position.
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said he will support Andi's Law in the Senate.
"If someone from the victim's family feels like they need to be there to represent the family they should have that right, in every other state that has executions the victims' families are put first, and Arkansas puts our victims' families last," Hester said.
In the 2013 legislative session, Hester filed SB52, a similar bill to Andi's Law. It was approved in the Senate but died in the House, according to legislature records.
Andi's Law already has five legislative cosponsors, and Petty said she suspects it will pass when she brings it to the House floor in January.
Hester said he expects the bill to pass in the Senate as well.
"I hope it's one of the first things we do, it sends a message that we stand behind victims and families and we stand behind Rep. Petty and I feel like we are going to get this done quickly," Hester said.