Criminal Justice

Arkansas seeks return of ailing and aging convict who fled in 1970

The state of Arkansas wants the return of Lester Stiggers, convicted of murder at the age of 15.

The 63-year-old Stiggers, who fled to Michigan while on a furlough in 1970, was surprised when an Associated Press reporter informed him of the extradition request. Stiggers no longer works after suffering two strokes, uses an inhaler, and takes 10 pills a day for diabetes and other ailments. Arkansas requested Stiggers’ return after learning of his request for Social Security benefits.

“I’m an invalid now. I’m half dead,” Stiggers told the reporter. “What would their interest be to have me back?” The Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.) also has a story on Stiggers’ plight.

Stiggers was convicted of killing his father in 1965 and sent to a state prison farm. Stiggers says his father beat him and his mother, but the abuse wasn’t disclosed at trial because his lawyer advised him not to testify.

Arkansas originally requested Stiggers’ extradition in the 1970s, but Michigan’s governor gave him asylum, partly because of concerns about the Arkansas prison system. The Supreme Court has since clarified extradition law and “Michigan’s hands are tied,” Cooley law professor Curt Benson told AP.

“To the extent that he deserves mercy, it’s up to Arkansas to show mercy,” Benson said.

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