Arkansas Executes Fourth Man in Eight Days

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – Arkansas on Thursday night executed its fourth man in eight days, concluding its plan that called for eight prisoners to die by lethal injection before a key drug expires at the end of April.

Kenneth Williams, 38, was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m. Central Standard Time, 13 minutes after the execution began. The execution, scheduled for 7 p.m., was delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed Williams’ requests to block his death sentence.

Williams was sentenced to death for the 1999 killing and robbery of Cecil Boren, 18 days after Williams escaped from prison in Lincoln County, where he was serving a life sentence for killing university cheerleader Dominique Hurd. Williams is also responsible for killing motorist Michael Greenwood during a high-speed police chase.

He was the fourth man Arkansas killed in eight days, when its plan to kill eight over 11 days faltered due to legal challenges. The state’s supply of midazolam, a sedative, expires on Sunday. It is the first of three drugs Arkansas uses to kill people.

Ledell Lee was executed on April 20.

Jack Harold Jones, 52, and Marcel Wayne Williams, 46, were killed Monday night, 3 hours apart, the nation’s first double execution in 17 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court late Thursday cleared the way for Williams’ execution after he unsuccessfully petitioned the Eighth Circuit for a stay.

The Arkansas Supreme Court also denied Williams’ requests and Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie M. Pierce dismissed a complaint filed Thursday morning that claimed Williams’ execution could cause him unconstitutional pain and suffering because of his “unique medical conditions.” Williams suffered from sickle cell trait, lupus and organic brain damage, according to court filings.

Williams’ attorneys have claimed for years that he is mentally disabled and ineligible for the death penalty. They said in the Pulaski County complaint that, like the Monday night execution of Marcel Williams, their client’s execution would cause him to “be tortured to death and endure severe pain and suffering due to his unique medical conditions and as a result of the state’s failure to humanely apply its execution protocol.”

“The state has not offered any evidence or proffered an expert witness to rebut the substantial proof that Mr. Williams is intellectually disabled,” said Shawn Nolan, whose office was appointed to represent Williams. “Unfortunately, the courts have simply refused to allow Mr. Williams to prove his intellectual disability, a disability that would prohibit his execution.”

State prosecutors called the claims “utterly baseless.”

“Tonight the rule of law was upheld as the family of Cecil Boren saw justice done,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said late Thursday night. “On October 3, 1999, Cecil was simply going about his daily life at his home near the Cummins Prison Unit when he was shot and killed by an escapee who was serving life imprisonment without parole for capital murder.

“I pray this lawful execution will bring closure and peace to the Boren family,” Rutledge said.

Williams was the 200th person executed in Arkansas since it began capital punishment in 1913, according to the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Before last week, the state had not executed a prisoner since November 2005.

Nolan said in a statement late Thursday night that accounts of his client’s execution “are horrifying.”

“We tried over and over again to get the state to comport with their own protocol to avoid torturing our client to death, and yet reports from the execution witnesses indicate that Mr. Williams suffered during this execution.  Press reports state that within three minutes into the execution, our client began coughing, convulsing, jerking and lurching with sound that was audible even with the microphone turned off,” Noland said. “This is very disturbing, but not at all surprising, given the history of the risky sedative midazolam, which has been used in many botched executions.”

The attorney said he is asking for a full investigation into Williams’ execution.

“What’s important right now is that all the information about tonight’s execution must be meticulously documented and preserved so that we can discover exactly what happened in that execution chamber. The courts were wrong for not intervening,” Nolan said.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday that he sees no reason for anything more than a routine review of the execution, which is done by the Department of Corrections anytime an inmate is put to death.

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