Arkansas executes Kenneth Williams, 4th inmate in a week

Posted at 8:37 AM, Apr 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-28 08:37:39-04

Arkansas executed its fourth inmate in a week, ending a frantic schedule caused by the looming expiration of the state’s supply of lethal injection drugs.

Kenneth Williams, 38, was initially sentenced to life in prison for the 1998 killing of Dominique Hurd, a university cheerleader. He was later convicted of capital murder after he escaped from prison and killed Cecil Boren .

Boren’s daughter, Jodie Efird, watched the execution Thursday night from the death chamber. She said while it may not bring closure, it helps a little.

“Every time we drive down this road, he’s not here anymore,” she said of Williams.

During the execution, Williams expressed remorse in his final words.

“I was more than wrong. The crime I perpetrated against you all was senseless,” Williams said, according to CNN affiliate KATV.

He died by lethal injection at 11:05 p.m. local time, the last of eight inmates originally scheduled to be put to death this month.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson had put a temporary hold on Williams’ execution Thursday evening to allow the US Supreme Court to consider motions for stays of execution. The court denied all the motions.

Prison escapee

Williams was convicted in the 1998 killing of Hurd, the university cheerleader.

In 1999, he escaped from Cummins prison and killed Cecil Boren at his home just a couple miles away. He was captured after causing a traffic accident that killed a driver, Michael Greenwood of Missouri. He was convicted of capital murder for Boren’s death in 2000.

Boren’s widow said earlier that she planned to witness the execution.

“We just live 2 miles from the prison. … Every time I go up and down the highway, I know he’s there,” Gail Boren told CNN affiliate KATV.

“We are looking forward to this happening so we can put it behind us.”

Seventeen years after that conviction, Williams was executed at the same Cummins prison he escaped from.

Dwindling supply of sedatives

Arkansas’ supply of sedatives used in the lethal injection expires at the end of the month. The state is facing a scarcity of lethal injection drugs as it struggles with suppliers that don’t want their products used in executions.

Of the eight inmates scheduled to die, the courts had issued injunctions staying four of those executions for various reasons.

Ledell Lee, Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, and Kenneth Williams, were executed April 20, Monday and Thursday, respectively.

Jones and Marcel Williams were both executed Monday for murders committed in the 1990s, while Lee was killed April 20. Lee was convicted in 1995 of murdering a woman in her home two years earlier.

Williams and the other seven death row inmates initially fought their executions on the grounds that midazolam, the sedative Arkansas is using to render inmates unconscious, does not reliably prevent a painful death. The Arkansas Supreme Court denied the claim.

States generally didn’t use midazolam in the past, but they’ve turned to it as drug makers clamped down on the use of other drugs in executions.

Lethal injection traditionally required a three-drug cocktail: The first (sodium thiopental or pentobarbital) put the prisoner to sleep; the second (pancuronium bromide) brought on paralysis; and the final agent (potassium chloride) stopped the heart.

But manufacturers and European countries started withholding sodium thiopental and pentobarbital, saying they didn’t want them used in executions. Arkansas and other states turned to midazolam as an alternative to the anesthetic.

It’s unclear whether Arkansas will receive fresh supplies of midazolam after its current batch expires. One manufacturer, West-Ward Pharmacueticals, filed a brief in support of the eight inmates this month, saying it tries to ensure its midazolam isn’t used in executions.

One of the media witnesses, Donna Terrell of FOX 16 in Little Rock, told CNN affiliate KARK that after the midazolam was injected, Williams’ chest started going up and down rapidly.

It continued for several minutes, Terrell said, from 10:55 pm to 10:59 pm, at which point it appeared he stopped breathing, or it was no longer noticeable.

Even though the microphone was turned off, Terrell said, the witnesses could still hear heavy breathing.

But there was no expression on Williams’ face. It didn’t appear as if he was in pain, she said.

The executions have drawn international outcry.

“While the rest of the country and the world moves away from the death penalty, Arkansas has shown just how committed it is to running in the wrong direction,” said James Clark, a senior campaigner at Amnesty International USA. “While it is too late for Kenneth Williams, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams, and Ledell Lee, it is not too late to commute the sentences of all of those remaining on death row.