Arkansas inmate convulses during deadline-beating execution

Caroline Beck
April 30, 2017

A motorist passes by the entrance to the Cummins Unit prison near Varner, Ark., on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

Kenneth Williams, 38, was initially sentenced to life in prison for the 1998 killing of Dominique Hurd, a university cheerleader. But it was clearly one of the most unorthodox-looking executions in state history.

- As Arkansas executed its fourth inmate in eight days, Catholics offered prayers for the prisoners, the victims, and their families, saying the executions have diminished the whole society.

While Greenwood's family forgave Williams and asked the state to spare his life, Boren's family sought to have the execution move forward.

The compressed schedule was because the state's stock of one lethal injection drug, the sedative midazolam, was due to expire at the end of this month, said officials.

Williams' attorneys disagree. Instead, they called what they witnessed in Williams execution "horrifying", and are now calling for an investigation into the methods used to execute the man.

Four of the eight planned executions were halted by courts for various reasons - one for a hearing for DNA evidence, another for a 30-day public comment period after the state's parole board had recommended clemency, and two others tied to the U.S. Supreme Court's current consideration of a case about the rights of inmates to access an independent mental health professional to determine their competency for execution.

She said her family, upon learning that Williams has a daughter as well as a granddaughter whom he's never met, bought the pair plane tickets to Arkansas so they could visit him one last time.

"This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust and expensive", Wolf said in a statement, The Philadelphia Tribune reported.

Kelly Kissel, another media witness who has seen ten executions, including two that have involved the controversial drug Midazolam, says he's never witnessed anything like that. But he has not ordered prison officials to find a replacement for its supply of the drug. Then the rate slowed for a final five movements.

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The governor plans to analyze every witness statement but insisted none of Williams's actions justified anything more than a routine review, which the ADC does after every execution. Williams' attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union have called for a full investigation. The execution, scheduled for 7 p.m., was delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed Williams' requests to block his death sentence. He was executed at the same prison he escaped from and was the last of eight inmates originally scheduled to be executed in the month of April. He also spoke in tongues, the unintelligible speech used in some religions. The law takes effect next year.

The inmate's lawyers also cited problems with Monday's second execution, during which Marcel Williams' head tilted back slightly as he breathed deeply and, three minutes after his execution started, his head turned slightly to the left. Three media witnesses are allowed.

In his final statement from the death chamber, Williams said, "I extend my sincerest of apologies to the families I have senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones". "His hands remained relaxed and he did not have a grimace or indication of distress on his face".

The inmates' lawyers have said there are still flaws and that there is no certainty that the inmates are not suffering while they die.

"I saw an efficient, effective execution process", state Sen.

He was sentenced to death for killing former deputy warden Cecil Boren after escaping from the Cummins Unit prison in a 1,800-litre barrel of hog slop in 1999.

A doctor who has been described by inmates' attorneys as an expert on the potential dangers of midazolam said Williams' movements raised concerns.

"This is a new chapter in this story, and every time we have a new chapter it makes it more and more hard to obtain drugs and the states' options get more and more constrained", said Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and an expert on the death penalty. "Or, more to the point, even if the protocol was followed, the protocol was fundamentally flawed".

Williams suffered from sickle cell trait, lupus and organic brain damage, according to court filings.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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