Kenneth Williams' execution: Last hours leading to his death

Cheryl Sanders
April 30, 2017

An Arkansas murderer executed Thursday night saw his daughter for the first time in 17 years and met his 3-year-old granddaughter before he died, thanks to the family of one of his victims. It's not clear how many doses of the other two drugs Arkansas uses to execute prisoners remain in the state's stash.

Death sentences are still being handed down, but many states are not scheduling executions because authorities don't have the drugs needed for lethal injection.

On Thursday night, Arkansas carried out the fourth of eight executions it scheduled over 11 days, putting Kenneth Williams to death for the murder of a deputy prison warden almost two decades earlier.

"He said, tomorrow, whatever is done, he'll be quieter as he was able to see me and my daughter and know all that the Greenwood family did for him", said Jasmine Johnson's daughter. His execution however, has prompted calls for investigations after the inmate lurched and convulsed while strapped to the gurney.

"There's no indication of pain which is the most important part of it to me", the governor said.

Plaintiffs now ask this Court to issue an order directing a non-party to collect and preserve certain physical evidence from the body of Kenneth Williams.

The governor said he does not think Arkansas needs to change its execution protocol, citing court rulings that have upheld the use of the sedative midazolam, which was a component of Williams' injection.

Arkansas' execution protocol requires prison officials to dispose of any drugs that were prepared for an execution, but not used.

About three minutes into the execution, the AP reported, Williams began lurching and jerking about 20 times against the leather straps holding him down.

Williams' attorneys released a statement calling the witness accounts "horrifying".

Sklar said in a statement on Friday that Hutchinson "ignored the dangers" to beat the expiration date of the state's supply of midazolam on Sunday, April 30.

Attorneys for Williams and the American Civil Liberties Union called for a full investigation after he became the fourth convicted killer executed in Arkansas in eight days. Four others were granted temporary stays.

The four lethal injections that were carried out included Monday's first double execution in the USA since 2000.

The Greenwood family had pushed for William's clemency, but family members of another victim, Cecil Boren, resisted, insisting on the death penalty, according to AP. He also spoke in tongues, the unintelligible but language-like speech used in some religions. It was the first time Oklahoma used midazolam as the first element in its execution drug combination.

"I've been a lawyer a long time and if you have five witnesses, you're going to have five different descriptions", Hutchinson said.

The inmate breathed heavily through his nose until just after three minutes into his execution, when his chest leaped forward in a series of what seemed like involuntary movements.

Williams was sentenced to death in 2000 for fatally shooting a former deputy warden during his 1999 escape from prison, where he was serving a life sentence for killing a college cheerleader the previous year. While interned at the Arkansas Department Correction's Cummins Unit, he escaped on a prison vehicle's hog slop container.

A total of 31 witnesses walked into the chamber's viewing room to watch Williams' execution.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said he believes the Arkansas case will have only minor influence on whether the U.S. Supreme Court again considers the use of midazolam. Witnesses to those lengthier executions also described hearing inmates breathe heavily, snore or snort or seeing them struggle against their restraints.

"After the state injects Mr. Williams with vecuronium bromide. most or all of the manifestations of his extreme pain and suffering will not be discernible to witnesses", they wrote to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which rejected his request to stop the execution.

"At a minimum, this was a deviation from the protocol".

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