LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – Arkansas on Monday night executed two convicted killers, becoming the first state in 17 years to carry out a double execution.
Jack Harold Jones, 52, was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m. Central Standard Time, 14 minutes after the execution began.
Marcel Wayne Williams, 46, died at 10:33 p.m. by the same lethal injection cocktail.
Jones was white, Williams black.
They were the second and third prisoners executed in the state’s plan to kill eight men over an 11-day span before its supply of midazolam expires at the end of April. Legal challenges have blocked four of those executions but the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Ledell Lee to be put to death last Thursday.
Before last week, Arkansas had not executed a prisoner in 12 years. No state has put two prisoners to death on the same night since 2000, when Texas carried out a double execution.
One more Arkansas inmate, Kenneth Williams, is to die Thursday in the death chamber at the Cummins Unit, in unincorporated Lincoln County, southeast of Pine Bluff.
Marcel Williams’ attorney persuaded U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to temporarily block his execution, but the judge lifted that order at 9:22 p.m. His attorney argued in court documents just after Jones’ execution that complications made his final moments appear “to be torturous and inhuman.”
“Mr. Jones was moving his lips and gulping for air,” John C. Williams, with the Federal Public Defender Office, wrote in an emergency motion to stay the second execution of the night.
Attorneys for the state called the allegation “utterly baseless.”
“There was no constitutional violation in Jones’ execution,” Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni said in a court filing.
Williams was executed one hour and 10 minutes after the stay was lifted.
Jones was sentenced to death for the June 6, 1995 murder of Mary Phillips, a bookkeeper whom he admitted raping and strangling to death with a coffee pot cord while her 11-year-old daughter, Lacey, lay unconscious after he beat and choked her.
“There are no words that would fully express my remorse for the pain that I caused,” Jones wrote in a handwritten statement before his death.
Williams was on death row for the 1994 kidnapping, rape and strangling death of 22-year-old Stacy Errickson, a mother of two. Williams used the drawstring from the hood of Errickson’s jacket to strangle her.
Both said in unsuccessful legal challenges that they suffered from diabetes and other medical issues and that killing them with the state’s lethal injection cocktail would be cruel and unusual punishment.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said late Monday that she hoped the night’s executions brought the victims’ families peace.