Victim's family asks for state of Arkansas to spare murderer's life
The family of a man from the Ozarks who was killed by an escaped murderer
almost 2 decades ago said they do not want his killer to be executed.
"I believe justice has already been served. He hasn't been able to kill anyone
else. Executing him is more of revenge," said Stacey Yaw, who was Michael
Kenneth Williams is set to die on Thursday. He's 1 of 8 inmates who Arkansas
scheduled for execution by the end of the month before its supply of a key
execution drug expires. 4 of the 8 condemned men got judicial reprieves; 3 of
them were put to death; only Williams is still set for execution.
Michael Greenwood of Springfield and his wife had just found out they were
expecting twins when Williams escaped from an Arkansas prison. Williams led law
enforcement officers on a chase in a stolen truck and crashed into Greenwood's
work truck near Urbana, north of Buffalo, and killed Greenwood.
Now Greenwood's family asks for his killer's life to be spared.
"I miss him when I'm with my grandkids, I wish he was there to see them, too;
little things they do, proud moments," Yaw said.
Greenwood's family feels his absence every day.
"He was a great guy. He was a tough guy. He was a funny guy. He was a great
guy," Yaw said.
They do not want anyone else to feel this pain, even Greenwood's killer.
"Sometimes the right thing is hard to do, but it is the best option," said
Michael Greenwood's son, Joseph Greenwood.
That is why they ask for Kenneth Williams' life to be spared.
"Everyone can change and I definitely believe in 2nd or even 3rd chances,
because it's what's right," said Joseph Greenwood.
For them that chance is making sure the killer gets to see his family 1 last
time. The victim's family just bought Williams' daughter and granddaughter
plane tickets; so, they could get here before the execution.
"It's just not right. It's just not right. She didn't do anything ever and now
she is going to be a victim," Yaw said.
They are helping Williams' last wish come true for the sake of his daughter,
"If I was Jasmine, I would want somebody there for me. We are all humans, we
are all here together, we have to be here for each other," said Kayla
Greenwood, who is Michael Greenwood's daughter.
"We experience what she felt. She is getting ready to lose a father and me, my
brother, and sister all lost a father. It sucks and we feel really bad for her.
Even though he killed our father," said Joseph Greenwood.
This will be the 1st time that Williams has ever seen his granddaughter.
"At least that can be something good and beautiful that can come out of
something so horrible," Kayla Greenwood said.
The Greenwood family invited us to drive along with them to meet Jasmine and
her daughter on Wednesday.
(source: KSPR news)
4 Arkansas Executions Are Tied to the Expiration Date of a Drug That Does Not
Work in Lethal Injections
According to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, the lives of several death row
inmates hinge on chemistry. Earlier this year, Hutchinson scheduled 8
executions during 10 days in April because, he said, the state's supply of
midazolam expires at the end of the month. This chemical is 1 of 3 that
Arkansas uses for lethal injections, the current standard for enacting the
death penalty in U.S. states that have not outlawed the practice. Courts have
blocked 4 of the executions, but the others are proceeding. All this because of
an expiration date on a drug that many experts believe should never have been
included in the execution cocktail.
In several states, midazolam is the 1st of the 2 or 3 drugs used for lethal
injections. It belongs to a family of chemicals called benzodiazepines,
psychoactive drugs used primarily for treating anxiety. Midazolam is basically
like valium. "It mellows you out," says Lee Cantrell, who teaches clinical
pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, and directs the San
Diego division of California's poison control system. After getting the
midazolam, prisoners in Arkansas are injected with pancuronium bromide, which
paralyzes them, and then potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
But the use of midazolam is extremely controversial, mainly because of its
inadequate effects. The original 1st component in chemical executions was a
more powerful anesthetic, such as sodium thiopental. This drug is a
barbiturate, the kind used for general anesthesia during surgery. Many states
still use sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, another drug in the same family,
to put inmates under prior to killing them. With a barbiturate, the individual
is unconscious when the heart-stopping chemical is injected into his or her
bloodstream. That does not happen with benzodiazepines.
Both types of chemicals rely on a protein called GABA, short for
gamma-aminobuteric acid. In its natural state, GABA is a so-called inhibitor
transmitter; it sends signals that stop activity rather than excite activity.
"Its whole job is to slow you down and put you to sleep," says Chris McCurdy,
professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida.
Benzos and barbiturates have a stark difference, however. The latter family
causes the GABA receptor to work continually without stopping, like opening the
tap and never reaching the maximum flow capacity. The more barbiturate you
take, the more your GABA receptors signal.
Drugs like midazolam don't do that. They have what pharmacists call a "ceiling
effect." A certain amount of benzodiazepine exhausts the GABA-enhancing
effects. That amount may be different for different people, but it's never
unlimited. Once a person hits that ceiling, the sedative effect cannot be
increased. With benzos, you can turn the tap all you want, but you're never
going to get more water to come out of the faucet. That ceiling effect makes it
impossible to guarantee sedation prior to death. Midazolam, says Cantrell,
"doesn't do anything for pain."
But states that have run out of barbiturates for executions have turned to
midazolam as a substitute. And indeed, the replacement has proved extremely
problematic. In 2014, Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett awoke 10
minutes after he'd been declared unconscious following a midazolam injection,
before the heart-stopping chemicals could kill him. Witnesses described him
writhing on the gurney. He died of a heart attack 40 minutes later, a complete
departure from the quick and painless process that lethal injections are
supposed to follow.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the use of midazolam in lethal
injections in Glossip v. Gross. Richard Glossip was sentenced to death in
Oklahoma for commissioning a murder (Glossip replaced the first petitioner,
Charles Frederick Warner, after he was killed by the state in January 2015).
Glossip's execution was stayed 3 times because the lethal injection practices
in that state raised several issues, including the inclusion of midazolam.
An amicus brief by 16 pharmacology professors for this case argued against the
use of midazolam in lethal injections. "Everyone was in agreement," says
McCurdy, one of the authors of the brief. Because midazolam works differently
from thiopental, the pharmacologists did not consider it an acceptable
substitute. "You can't achieve the general anesthesia that you can with a
barbiturate." The scientists did not convince the court, which ruled 5-4
against Glossip, who remains on death row in Oklahoma. Florida, Alabama and
Virginia also use midazolam in executions.
Death row drugs are extremely hard to acquire, and manufacturers either refuse
to provide their pharmaceuticals to states for this purpose or refuse to admit
they've done so. The refusal of companies to provide barbiturates or
benzodiazepines to states for lethal injections is why Arkansas is rushing the
current executions through this month. The impending expiration date of
Arkansas's midazolam would not be an issue if it could easily buy more. But it
Arkansas will not say how it acquired its stash of midazolam, impeding
discussion of whether the executions could be delayed. The Associated Press
reported that the state purchased the drugs from West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, a
subsidiary of the British company Hikma. But Brooke Clarke, a spokesperson for
West-Ward, says that is not so, and that company controls prevent such sales.
"If the State of Arkansas was able to procure any of our U.S.-manufactured
drugs for use in lethal injections despite these controls - which it will not
confirm or deny to us - it was not directly from us, nor with our knowledge,"
The assertion that the executions must beat the expiration date is also
scientifically dubious. Scientific data show no evidence of sudden changes in a
pharmaceutical immediately following the date stamped on the side of a bottle.
While it's true that studies of the validity of expiration dates have focused
on whether the prescription drugs become more dangerous over time, they have
also shown a gradual, not abrupt, decline in the potency of an active chemical.
Cantrell and colleagues recently analyzed several old medications to see if the
expiration date was relevant. Some of the drugs were 40 years old. "Many
retained the potency stated on the label," says Cantrell.
Chemicals like benzodiazepine will degrade over time. And as they do so, they
weaken. But the timing is uncertain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
instructs drug-makers on how much active ingredient must be present and
expiration dates are shaped around that measurement. But estimating when a
given drug will dip below that level is just that, an estimate. "It's sort of
an arbitrary date," says McCurdy. The amount of active ingredient can be easily
determined in a laboratory analysis, were someone to bother taking that step.
"It's not run of the mill, but it can be done," says McCurdy. At the very
least, there is no reason to believe that Arkansas's midazolam will curdle on
May 1, rendering it any more ineffective than it already is.
For now, though, Arkansas is continuing its race against the expiration-date
clock. Last week, Ledell Lee was executed. On Monday night, Jack Jones and then
Marcel Williams were executed an hour apart. But not before nurses tried for 45
unsuccessful minutes to insert a central line into Jones's neck for the
injections. Eventually, they gave up and placed the tube elsewhere on his body.
A court appeal filed just a few minutes before Williams's execution noted that
Jones gulped for air as he died, "evidence," the filing stated, "of continued
Arkansas executions: 'I was watching him breathe heavily and arch his
back'----Arkansas on Monday carried out the first double execution in the US in
16 years. Jacob Rosenberg witnessed the murderer Marcel Williams being put to
At 9.34pm we entered the execution chamber. I passed through a door with a
large sign on its front showing 2 letters, "EC", and took a seat among a few
rows of chairs that faced four large rectangular windows. Some lights were on,
but it was mostly dim. A black curtain was drawn behind the windows in front of
Behind that curtain, strapped to a gurney in an even smaller room, was Marcel
In Arkansas, we do not get to see the placement of the IV for lethal injection.
So, from the time we entered until the curtain opened, I saw nothing. We just
stared forward at those windows, waiting for them to reveal Williams, 46, who
was sent to death row for the 1994 rape and killing of 22-year-old Stacy
Errickson, whom he kidnapped from a gas station.
We had done this earlier in the night, when a last-minute stay had us waiting
in the chamber for over an hour. During that time, we later learned, Williams
had been strapped down on the gurney. Now, as then, with the stay lifted, I
simply looked at the black curtain, knowing almost nothing about what was
happening to the prisoner.
The curtain created a reflection of the room behind me, like a mirror. I could
see other witnesses, and myself, fidget.
At 10.16pm, after 32 minutes of IV placement, the curtain opened.
Light from fluorescent bulbs cast a strange yellow glow in the room in front.
Marcel Williams's eyes looked right up at the ceiling. He was on a gurney, tied
down. His head was locked in place and the right side of his body was facing
us, the viewers. He said no final words.
At this point, the first lethal injection drug - the controversial sedative
midazolam, whose expiration date at the end of this month has prompted
Arkansas's unprecedented wave of judicial killings - was supposed to be
administered. No one announced that a drug was being given . The process simply
moved along. I watched and tried to follow.
His eyes began to droop and eventually closed (the right one lingered slightly
open throughout). His breaths became deep and heavy. His back arched off the
gurney as he sucked in air.
I could not count the number of times his body moved in such a way, rising off
Procedure dictates that 5 minutes after the introduction of midazolam there
should be no movements. But, at 10.21pm, Williams was still breathing heavily
and moving. The man in the room checked his pulse and touched his eyes and said
something. (The audio was cut off for us.)
At this point, it is likely another dose of midazolam was given. I cannot be
sure it was administered. I was watching him breathe heavily and arch his back
and then the breathing began to shallow out. By 10.24pm, Williams looked
The 1st consciousness check was clearly at 10.21pm, and then it seems the
breathing subsided, but the situation became confusing as the official
continually checked Williams by touching his hands and face. At 10.27pm, the
official ran a finger across Williams's eyelids again. Was this the 2nd
consciousness check? Did they determine Williams was unconscious? Would the 2nd
drug be administered now?
These questions are crucial because the next drug was a paralytic, which stops
I do not know when the 2nd drug, which would mask all pain, was administered. I
did not see the IV placed. The audio was cut so I could not hear whether he was
moaning, and I could not see how many times each drug was administered -
meaning, even as a witness, I could not say if Marcel Williams felt pain or
what happened during his death by the midazolam 3-drug protocol.
The process is designed to feed me details as a viewer that suggest peaceful
passing. But this will not have been the experience of Marcel Williams.
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.
Near 10.31pm, they switched off the IVs. The man who had been checking for
consciousness pulled out a stethoscope and put it to Williams's heart. He
called in a coroner. I remember seeing Williams, there on the gurney, not
And then, the one detail you can't obfuscate. That nothing can hide. The time
of death was 10.33pm.
(source: Jacob Rosenberg is a reporter with the Arkansas Times----The Guardian)
Justice----What's Happening in Arkansas Is the Perfect Argument Against the
The Washington Post calls it "state-sponsored killing spree," with Arkansans
have now executed three of the eight men it's seeking to put to death this
month. On Monday, 52-year-old Jack H. Jones was injected with a controversial
3-drug cocktail that left him catching his breath - and, some witnesses say, in
pain - before being declared dead at 7:20 pm.
Jones' execution was 1 of 2 people executed on Monday, the other being Marcell
Williams. It was the 1st 1-day double execution to be performed in nearly 2
decades. Another man, Ledell Lee, was executed on April 20, the same day the
Supreme Court allowed Arkansas to continue using a potentially ineffective
sedative, midazolam, to put prisoners to death. The state had faced judicial
setbacks over its plans to use the drug as part of its lethal cocktail - and
has been rushing to use it this month before it expires.
Questions have been raised about the humaneness of Arkansas moving forward with
the 5 other executions in light of claims its drug cocktail is not quick and
painless. Associated Press reporter Andrew DeMillo said he they did not see
pain on Jones' face as he died, but others have said that Jones' gasps for air
could be a sign that he was suffering as he died.
Arkansas and other death-penalty states have struggled to obtain reliable drugs
for use in executions since many pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell
their products to them, responding to campaigns launched by activists opposed
to the death penalty. As a result, states have turned to untested methods, with
Arizona and Ohio both carrying out executions that resulted in dying inmates
gasping for breath, sometimes for hours.
In Alabama, Ronald B. Smith was injected with a 3 drugs and proceeded to
struggle to breath, heaving and coughing on the execution table for 13 minute
while onlookers made no attempt to stop the procedure, according to those
Kenneth Williams is expected to be executed in Arkansas on Thursday, according
to The Marshall Project.
Witnesses to Double Execution in Arkansas Say Inmates May Have Suffered
Botched, Painful Death
We speak with The Guardian's chief reporter Ed Pilkington about the shocking
double execution Arkansas carried out Monday night, marking the 1st time in
nearly 17 years that any state has killed 2 people on the same day. At 7:20
p.m. local time, 52-year-old Jack Harold Jones was pronounced dead in the death
chamber at the Cummins Unit state prison. Infirmary workers had spent more than
45 minutes unsuccessfully trying to put a central line into his neck. According
to a court filing, during Jones's execution, he was "moving his lips and
gulping for air," which suggests he continued to be conscious during the lethal
injection. Lawyers for the 2nd man, Marcel Williams, filed a last-minute appeal
for a stay of execution following Jones's killing, arguing Williams could also
experience a botched, painful death. A district court judge initially granted a
temporary stay of Williams's execution but then allowed the execution to go
forward. Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. The executions came after
legal challenges reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected a stay for
Williams. The only justice to dissent in this ruling was Justice Sonia
Sotomayor. The last double execution carried out in the United States was in
2000 in Texas.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Arkansas carried out a double execution Monday night, marking
the 1st time in nearly 17 years that any state has killed 2 people on the same
day. At 7:20 p.m. local time, 52-year-old Jack Harold Jones was pronounced dead
in the death chamber at the Cummings Unit state prison. Infirmary workers had
spent more than 45 minutes unsuccessfully trying to put a central line into his
neck. According to a court filing, during Jones's execution, he was, quote,
"was moving his lips and gulping for air," unquote, which suggests he continued
to be conscious during the lethal injection. The controversial sedative
midazolam is administered as part of a cocktail of execution drugs to make
prisoners unconscious, but it's repeatedly failed to do so during other
executions, leading to painful deaths. Ahead of Monday night, Jones's lawyers
had argued his medical condition was likely to reduce the sedative's
effectiveness, leading to an unconstitutionally painful death, but this
argument was rejected by a court. Before being killed, Jones gave a long final
statement in which he apologized to the daughter of Mary Phillips. Jones has
admitted to raping and killing Mary Phillips in 1995. His final words were "I'm
Lawyers for the 2nd man, Marcel Williams, filed a last-minute appeal for a stay
of execution following Jones's killing, arguing Williams could also experience
a botched, painful death. A district court judge initially granted a temporary
stay of Williams's execution but then allowed the execution to go forward.
Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. He had been convicted and sentenced
to death for the 1994 kidnap, rape and murder of Stacy Errickson.
AMY GOODMAN: Monday night's executions came after legal challenges reached the
U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected a stay for Williams. The only justice to
dissent in this ruling was Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The last double execution
carried out in the U.S. was in 2000 in Texas. Arkansas carried out its 1st
execution in 16 years Thursday, killing Ledell Lee, and plans to execute a 4th
man, Kenneth Williams, this coming Thursday. The state had initially planned
execute 8 people within 11 days this month - an unprecedented rate of
executions in modern U.S. history. They wanted to perform these executions
before the end of the month, when midazolam would expire.
For more, we're joined via Democracy Now! video stream by The Guardian reporter
Ed Pilkington, who has been following the executions closely with local
reporters on the ground.
Ed, welcome back to Democracy Now! You have a witness statement on the
execution. Can you explain - there were 2 - what the witness saw?
ED PILKINGTON: Yeah. We worked with Jacob Rosenberg, who is a reporter for
Arkansas Times. He was in the death chamber for the 2nd execution last night,
of Marcel Williams. And a very interesting account, I think, really important
part of it - there are 2 things, really. One, because of the court's stay that
happened for Marcel Williams, while the judge considered what had happened to
the 1st prisoner to die, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams was kept strapped to the
gurney the entire time. Now, we don't quite know when that began. It's probably
around something like 8:00 p.m. last night. And he was pronounced dead at
10:33. So, for maybe longer than 2 1/2hours, this 400-pound prisoner was kept
strapped to a gurney, which I think is fairly disturbing in itself.
The other thing that came out of our eyewitness report is that there's a sort
of missing half an hour. Now, the media - the 3 media witnesses were kept held
in a van while this - the delay was happening because of the court proceedings.
They had a little window at the back of the van that they could look out the
back of. They saw Marcel Williams being taken out to the bathroom and then
brought back. He was brought back at about 9:29. The execution began at 10:16.
We don't know anything about what happened in that period. And I think that's
important and will continue to be important, and it's because of the secrecy
that the death penalty states have imposed on the entire process of execution.
The media witnesses were only allowed to see when the curtain was opened and
the execution began. They were not allowed to see the crucial period in which
IV lines were tried to be found. And that was a problem that we had in the Jack
Jones execution earlier in the evening. The state, by its own admission in
court filings, admitted that they tried to find an IV line in the prisoner's
neck and failed.
And this is precisely the kind of problems that have come up time and time
again, with Clayton Lockett, the gruesome execution in Oklahoma where he
writhed for 43 minutes on the gurney - that was down to an IV line that
couldn't be found - and in Arizona, the Wood execution, where they tried - they
stuck him 15 times and injected him 15 different times, because they found it
so difficult to find a vein. So, I think we're starting to see the same old
problem emerge yet again: secrecy, the fact that the public cannot see what's
being done in its name when prisoners are being killed, leading to problems in
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Ed Pilkington, what are the requirements in terms of the
public's ability to view this, or the witnesses, at least, who are there, who
are permitted to see the execution, being able to witness the entire process?
ED PILKINGTON: Well, that's the problem. Like so much to do with the death
penalty, it's down to each individual state. But there is something in common
here. And that is, all the death penalty states, all sort of nine or so of them
that are still being - actively trying to pursue the death penalty, have taken
the same line, which is, we should let the public know as little as possible.
So they don't let us know the members of the execution team. Now, maybe that's
understandable, because, you know, the executioners could face harassment. But
they won't let us know who manufactures the drugs they use or where they got
them from. And that's problematic because we don't know, you know, were these
drugs sort of knocked up in a corner shop. They have tried that in the past.
And now they're fighting over how much the public can see in the process.
And in Arkansas, they went to extraordinary lengths to make our job difficult
as reporters - and I'm one of them. To start with, they wouldn't even allow us
laptops into the media room, where we were watching if we weren't in the death
chamber. Now, this is just a visiting room. We're not anywhere near the death
chamber. We're not a security issue. We weren't allowed laptops, to start with.
They consented on that in the end, but we weren't allowed telephones in the
room. And in the end, they only allowed reporters to take in notepads and
pencils supplied to them by the prison service, as though there was something
like a reporter would carry in their own notebook that would do something
subservient or something. And the whole process has like been a battle between
the media, which is the eyes and ears of the public, and the prison service,
that, after all, is doing the most serious thing that any state can do, and
that is to kill one of its own citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Ed Pilkington, about the deputy solicitor
general, named Nicholas Bronni, who admitted in a court filing the execution
team had tried to place a central line in Jones' neck, but the attempt was
unsuccessful. Talk about the significance of this and what happened next, and
that leading to the lawyers for the next man, Marcel Williams, trying to get a
stay on his execution, so he would not be tortured as he was killed.
ED PILKINGTON: Right. And, I mean, when I saw that in the court filing coming
from the state itself, I was astonished. They were trying to rebut the case
made by the lawyers for the 2nd prisoner to be executed, Marcel Williams, that
the 1st execution had been botched. That's what essentially was going on. And
in order to rebut that argument, the state said, "No, everything was fine.
Look, we tried to find an IV line in Jack Jones???, the 1st prisoner's, neck,
and we failed. And then we went on. We actually decided not to use a 3rd IV
line. We would just use 2." Now, they made that argument as though that showed
that the whole process had been a success, which I found rather astonishing
when I read it in the court filing.
Then we went on to the Marcel Williams execution, the 2nd one. We don't know,
as I say, what happened in half an hour when they were trying to find an IV
line. We know nothing about that at all. What we do know, from The Guardian's
work with the Arkansas Times and the reporter who was in the room for us, Jacob
Rosenberg, that Marcel Williams was seen to do - once he was sedated with
midazolam - which, you have to remember, is a sedative, it's not an anesthetic,
which is - it is not used in operations to put people under before surgery. It
is just used to relax them. So it's an entirely inappropriate medicine for use
in surgeries, and you might, therefore, say inappropriate for use in
executions. They gave him the midazolam. He relaxed. He started to breathe very
heavily. Now, our reporter from the Arkansas Times saw him rise up and down.
His back arched countless times. He actually lost count of the number of times
his back arched. This lasted over just a relatively short period of time, for
about 5, 6 minutes, compared with some of the really botched executions we've
seen, say, of Clayton Lockett, which was 43 minutes. But nevertheless, it
suggests that maybe the prisoner was experiencing difficulty. And again, will
we ever find out anything more about that? There is no indication that Arkansas
carried out an official inquiry into what happened. Often it takes months, if
at all, to see the internal results of their own inquiries. The whole process
is shrouded in secrecy, and it makes it very, very difficult for the media and
for the public to assess exactly what happened.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Ed Pilkington, you're the chief reporter for The Guardian
US. Briefly, in the few moments we have left, could you tell us what's the
response in Britain and in Europe, in general, to this continuing obsession in
the United States with executions?
ED PILKINGTON: Well, it's been very widespread coverage and quite a lot of
anger and dismay. I mean, it comes at a time when the world had been thinking
that the death penalty was receding, was on the wane in the U.S. Last year,
there were only 20 executions. And it has been going steadily down. Then,
suddenly, a Republican governor in Arkansas decides that he needs, for his own
reasons, all to do with the supplies of medicines, nothing else - for his own
reasons, he needs to execute 8 prisoners in 11 days. And, bam, the whole thing
is back. And Europe and Britain are incensed again. And here we are, talking
about it all over again.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Ed Pilkington, what happens next? I mean, for people to
understand, who are watching this around the globe, the reason there are what
they call these doubleheader executions now in Arkansas, to - they attempted to
kill - some were stopped in the killing - 8 men in 11 days, was to hit that
deadline by the end of the month, when the - one of the execution drugs,
midazolam, expires by the end of the month. So, who's on - who is on the list
next to be killed?
ED PILKINGTON: Well, we've got 1 more execution coming up this Thursday in
Arkansas. And then, sort of the battle continues. You have to say that the
death penalty states are waging a losing battle here, because the drug
companies are now absolutely in unison. They do not want their drugs, which are
designed and manufactured to save lives - they do not want those drugs used to
kill people. They're all saying it. More than 30 of the major manufacturers are
now saying that. Distribution companies are also saying that. They do not want
this to happen, and they are making it incredibly difficult for prison services
to find the drugs. And as a result, the prison services are doing more and more
extreme things, with more and more botched executions. And, you know, it feels
to me like the whole thing is falling apart.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ed Pilkington, we want to thank you for being with us, chief
reporter for The Guardian US, after what they call a doubleheader, a double
execution, in Arkansas last night. It hasn't happened in this country since
'Conveyor Belt of Death' Continues as Arkansas Carries Out Double
Execution----'The sentences of Jack Jones and Marcel Williams are another
heinous example of how the death penalty is applied to people with severe
mental impairments and history of abuse'
The government of Arkansas executed 2 men Monday evening despite concerns from
attorneys that the first state killing had been "torturous and inhumane."
52-year-old Jake Harold Jones was pronounced dead at 7:20 pm CDT, according to
a timeline confirmed by the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Just over 3
hours later, Marcel Williams, 46, was pronounced dead at 10:33 CDT.
The inmates were initially scheduled to be executed 1 hour apart, but Williams'
attorneys filed an emergency stay motion (pdf) saying that Jones' execution
"appeared to be torturous and inhumane," as the inmate was reportedly still
moving more than 5 minutes after the administration of the lethal drug
"cocktail." Williams' attorneys argued that "current circumstances demonstrate
an ongoing constitutional violation - cruel, unusual, and inhumane infliction
of pain and suffering upon Mr. Williams that is imminent based on the Jones
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker in Little Rock initially put Williams'
execution on hold but, Reuters reported, "lifted her order around an hour later
after holding a brief hearing on the matter, court filings showed."
The double-execution, the 1st to be carried out in the U.S. in 16 years, was
scheduled as part of controversial plan to put to death 8 inmates in 11 days,
before the expiration of the state's supply of midazolam, 1 of the execution
drugs contained in the deadly "cocktail."
"Both Jones and Williams," Reuters continued, "had argued that their obesity
put them at heightened risk of pain due to the controversial midazolam, which
was previously used in botched executions in Oklahoma and Arizona. The U.S.
Supreme Court denied those claims without comment."
Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only justice to dissent publicly from both
Human rights groups and death penalty opponents have waged a fierce legal
battle against the planned state killing spree, winning stays for 4 of the
individuals slated for execution. Ledell Lee was put to death last week while
the next execution, of Kenneth Dewayne Williams, is scheduled for Thursday.
In addition to arguing that Williams and Jones would suffer unnecessarily
because of their physical impairments, both men were said to have mental and
emotional problems as a result of childhood abuse and trauma.
Before his death, Jones issued a statement of apology to his victims and their
In a statement issued late Monday, James Clark, senior campaigner with Amnesty
International USA, said: "Tonight Arkansas continues its shameful backslide
against prevailing trends away from the death penalty."
"The sentences of Jack Jones and Marcel Williams are another heinous example of
how the death penalty is applied to people with severe mental impairments and
history of abuse," Clark continued. "This conveyor belt of death must stop
immediately by commuting the remaining sentences, and abolishing the death
penalty once and for all."
And leading anti-death penalty voice Sister Helen Prejean, who authored the
book Dead Man Walking (and was later portrayed in the 1995 film by the same
name), is encouraging other opponents to keep pressuring Arkansas Governor Asa
Hutchinson and state attorney general Leslie Rutledge to end state-sanctioned
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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