Arkansas carries out 'first double execution' in USA since 2000

Arkansas on Monday continued their controversial execution spree by carrying out back-to-back executions to become the first U.S. state to kill more than one inmate on the same day in 17 years.

Inmates Jack Jones and Marcel Williams were both executed by lethal injection on Monday night (April 24).

Jones, who was convicted of raping and killing Mary Phillips, 34, in 1995 and trying to murder her 11-year-old daughter, and found guilty of another rape and murder in Florida, reportedly took 14 minutes to die after the procedure began.

The judge ultimately allowed the second execution to go ahead after a hastily arranged 20-minute hearing by phone, marking the nation's first double execution on one day in almost 17 years, but the widely varying witness accounts of the first execution illustrate the risks that have made efforts to put more than one inmate to death in a day so rare.

Williams' attorneys briefly stalled the man's execution after they raised concerns about how the prior execution was carried out. It argued that Williams, who weighs 400 pounds, could face a "torturous" death because of his weight.

Asa Hutchison made a decision to schedule the execution of eight prisoners before its batch of midazolam, a drug used to render a person unconscious during the execution, expires at the end of April.

The executions follow a flurry of legal challenges, court rulings and reversals that have interfered with the state's unprecedented plan to execute eight men by lethal injection in 11 days.

Jones was one of eight death row inmates the state wanted to execute before the end of April while its stock of midazolam, one of the drugs used, was still in date.

The appeals court also declined inmate Jones' request for a stay based on a claim that the state's new lethal injection protocol will inflict cruel and unusual punishment.

"We know midazolam doesn't work", he said.

Death penalty opponents have protested the executions, but the spokesman for Arkansas's governor insists the right thing is being done. At 7:20 p.m. the state pronounced Jones dead.

Arkansas' attorney general says the attorneys' account of the Jones execution was "inaccurate". McKesson Corp. tried to get the Arkansas Department of Correction to return a supply of vecuronium bromide, the drug used to paralyze inmates, arguing that it's only supposed to be used for medical purposes.

Before his execution, Jones delivered a two-minute final statement where he apologised to Phillips' family, ending with: I'm sorry.

The inmates in line for their executions are Ledell Lee, who was executed last Thursday, April 20. The state called the claims "utterly baseless" and a federal judge lifted the temporary stay.

The second inmate put to death was Marcel Williams. 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.

Kenneth Williams is scheduled to be put to death Thursday in Arkansas.

Williams was serving a life sentence at the Arkansas Department of Correction for capital murder, attempted capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, theft and arson when he escaped October 3, 1999, by hiding in a "slop" truck.

Human rights groups and death penalty opponents have waged a fierce legal battle against the planned state killing spree, winning stays for four of the individuals slated for execution.

When asked whether he thought Jones experienced any pain, DeMillo said, "Nothing I could visibly detect". While the stay was issued, he asked to use the restroom and he was allowed up.

Robert Dunham is the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

The process began at 10:16 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m.

I passed through a door with a large sign on its front showing two letters, "EC", and took a seat among a few rows of chairs that faced four large rectangular windows.

Jones had once been raped by three strangers who had abducted him.

In a response filed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for the state said the inmates had filed an "avalanche" of lawsuits to obtain stays.

  • Leroy Wright