State puts 4th inmate to death in 8 days
Witnesses describe execution; inmate was 'striving for breath,' AP editor says
3 minutes after his lethal injection began, Arkansas inmate Kenneth Williams began coughing, convulsing and lurching with sound that was audible even with a microphone turned off, media witnesses to his execution said.
State news editor Kelly Kissel said that Williams' body lurched forward at 10:55 p.m., 3 minutes after the midazolam was administered. He described the movement as "when you're on a bumpy road and you hit a bump." Williams lurched forward 15 times in a period of 10 to 15 seconds, Kissel said.
He then lurched forward more slowly 5 times and began "striving for breath," according to witnesses.
The "labored breathing" continued until 10:59 p.m., Kissel said.
An attendant performed a consciousness check at 10:57 p.m., checking Williams' pupils.
Williams was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.
Kissel, who has witnessed 10 executions — including 2 in which midazolam has been used — said this is the most he's seen an inmate move.
A family member of Cecil Boren, who Williams killed after escaping prison in October 1999, said Williams showed "no change in his facial expression" to show any pain.
Jodie Efird added that “Any amount of movement he had was far less than any of his victims.”
Williams becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Arkansas and the 31st overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.
Williams becomes the 10th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1452nd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
Sources: Arkansas Online & Rick Halperin, April 28, 2017
Arkansas execution delayed as U.S. Supreme Court hears appeals
The state, which had not held an execution in 12 years until this month, has already put three inmates to death since April 20. It had planned to execute Kenneth Williams, 38, by lethal injection at 7 p.m. CDT at its Cummins Unit prison.
Arkansas had initially planned to execute eight inmates in 11 days in April, the most of any state in as short a period since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Four of those executions were halted by various courts.
The unprecedented schedule, set because a drug in the state's execution mix expires at the end of April, prompted criticism that Arkansas was acting recklessly. It also set off legal filings that raised questions about U.S. death chamber protocols, troubled prosecutions and difficulties in obtaining lethal injection drugs.
Hours before Thursday's planned execution, however, lawyers for Williams filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to halt the proceedings on grounds including that Arkansas failed "to provide Mr. Williams a forum to litigate his claim that he is intellectually disabled."
A U.S. District Court and courts in Arkansas have already rejected other motions seeking to halt the execution.
Williams, sentenced to life without parole for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old college cheerleader Dominique Hurd, broke out of a maximum-security prison in 1999.
He murdered Cecil Boren, 57 at his farmhouse, shooting him multiple times. Williams then stole Boren's pickup truck and fled to Missouri, where he slammed his vehicle into one driven by delivery man Michael Greenwood, 24, killing him.
"We've been waiting a long, long time for this," Genie Boren, the widow of Cecil Boren, was quoted as saying by local TV broadcaster Fox 16.
But Greenwood's daughter, Kayla Greenwood, sent Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson a letter on Thursday asking him to spare Williams.
"His execution will not bring my father back or return to us what has been taken, but it will cause additional suffering," the letter said.
In 2005, Williams sent a letter to a local Arkansas paper where he confessed to killing Jerrell Jenkins on the same day as the cheerleader.
Source: Reuters, April 27, 2017
⏩ Related content: Arkansas: Victim's family asks for state to spare murderer's life, April 26, 2017
After Arkansas Execution, Questions Are Raised About Drug’s Effectiveness
VARNER, Ark. — The State of Arkansas, which had rebuffed fears about its use of a controversial lethal injection drug, faced scrutiny early Friday about how well the medicine had worked during the state’s fourth execution in seven days.
Kenneth D. Williams, a convicted murderer, died at 11:05 p.m. on Thursday at the Cummins Unit, a state prison in southeast Arkansas. A news media witness reported that Mr. Williams briefly experienced “coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking” after the state began to administer midazolam, the first of its three lethal injection drugs.
“This is my 10th execution,” said the witness, Kelly P. Kissel of The Associated Press. “This is the first time I’ve seen that.”
Mr. Kissel said Mr. Williams lurched forward 20 times — 15 of them in rapid succession — and emitted sounds that could be heard in an adjacent room. By then, a microphone in the execution chamber had been switched off. The execution was not unusually long.
Although Mr. Kissel and other witnesses depicted Mr. Williams’s last moments as unsettling, state officials appeared unbothered. A spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, J. R. Davis, said the authorities believed Mr. Williams’s movements amounted to “involuntary muscular reaction.” Mr. Davis, who did not witness the execution, added, “There was no testimony that he was in pain.”
The competing, immediate narratives about Thursday’s execution were certain to fuel debate about midazolam’s role as an execution drug in the United States. The medicine, a sedative, is intended to render prisoners unconscious before injections of other, more painful drugs that stop a person’s breathing and heart. The United States Supreme Court has upheld its use in executions, despite arguments that the drug is not powerful enough to mask the pain of some lethal injections.
In a statement early Friday, a lawyer for Mr. Williams, Shawn Nolan, requested a formal inquiry that Mr. Davis had already signaled was unlikely to be forthcoming.
“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,” Mr. Nolan said.
Mr. Williams, 38, was expected to be the last Arkansas prisoner put to death for some time, chiefly because the state’s midazolam supply will expire within days.
Jodie Efird, a daughter of one of Mr. Williams’s victims, said she believed the state had “flawlessly” carried out the execution.
“Any kind of movement he had was far less than his victims,” she said after Mr. Williams was pronounced dead.
Source: The New York Times, Alan Blinder, April 28, 2017
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