After Arkansas conducted the first back-to-back executions in the United States since 2000, witnesses described what they saw when Jack Harold Jones Jr. and Marcel Wayne Williams died of lethal injection.
Jessi Turnure of CNN affiliate KARK said she saw no visible signs of struggle when Williams died, such as “grimacing” or “clenching of the fingers.” But she acknowledged there may have been pain she couldn’t see.
“It was very methodical,” she said of Monday night’s process. “As far as we could tell, the inmate was not having any trouble throughout it. … It was not horrible to watch. It didn’t look like he was struggling that much.”
Jacob Rosenberg, writing for The Guardian, said he could not tell whether Williams was moaning after receiving chemicals, because the audio feed from the death chamber was turned off.
“I could not say if Marcel Williams felt pain or what happened during his death by the midazolam three-drug protocol,” he wrote. “Protocol ensures that by the time the potassium chloride, which stops the heart and can be excruciatingly painful, is administered, even if the prisoner feels pain, the viewer will not see it. The paralytic is in place.”
Associated Press reporter Andrew DeMillo witnessed the earlier execution of Jones. He heard Jones deliver his last words from inside the death chamber, he said.
Jones’ lips moved after the drugs were administered, but the reporter said he didn’t know whether Jones was saying something or just moving his mouth, because the audio feed from the death chamber had been turned off by then.
When asked whether he thought Jones experienced any pain, DeMillo said, “Nothing I could visibly detect.”
Jones was administered drugs at 7:06 p.m. CT and pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m. CT.
After the intravenous catheters had been inserted into his body but before the lethal fluids were delivered, Jones was given a last opportunity to speak.
“I am not a monster, there was a reason why those things happened that day,” said the man who strangled Mary Phillips with a coffee pot cord in 1996, according to an internal log of activities released by the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Later, Phillips’ daughter Lacey, who survived the attack, thanked the prosecutors. “What they’ve done is help serve justice,” she said. “They gave our family justice.”
Before Williams’ execution began, a federal district court judge issued a temporary stay based on claims from Williams’ lawyers that Jones’ death was “torturous and inhumane.”
Infirmary staff tried unsuccessfully for 45 minutes to place a line in Jones’ neck, before placing one elsewhere on his body, the emergency motion read. The state called the claims “utterly baseless” and a federal judge lifted the temporary stay.
Because of the temporary stay, Williams was taken to the death chamber, then taken back to a cell to wait. When he was returned to the death chamber, he was given a chance to speak last words, but shook his head no, the log of activities said.
Williams was declared dead at 10:33 p.m., 17 minutes after the chemicals were released into his body.
Williams was convicted in the 1994 rape and murder of Stacy Errickson. He forced her into her car at gunpoint and made her withdraw money at several ATMs in transactions caught on camera. Her body was found two weeks later.
Another execution set for Thursday
Kenneth Williams is scheduled to be put to death Thursday in Arkansas.
J.R. Davis, spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said that after Williams’ execution, there will not be any more executions this month, given the supply of the drug will expire.
Davis said the state will work on procuring the drug again and reschedule the executions when the stays and court cases are resolved.
Arkansas wanted to execute eight inmates in April. The compressed timeline set off a series of last-minute challenges from inmates challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol.
Convicted murderer Ledell Lee was executed April 20, becoming the first person put to death in Arkansas since 2005. He maintained that he was innocent.
Four cases are on hold, pending appeal.