Arkansas carries out first double execution in 17 years

The southern state of Arkansas has carried out the first double execution in the United States in almost 17 years, forging on with a controversial push to execute a string of inmates before a lethal drug expires at the end of the month.

While Jones was executed on schedule, shortly after 7 p.m., attorneys for Williams convinced a federal judge minutes later to briefly delay his execution over concerns about how the earlier one was carried out. Williams was executed more than three hours after the execution of Jack Jones, 52, according to officials at Cummins Unit prison.

After going almost 12 years without executing an inmate, Arkansas now has executed three in a few days - including two in one night. And the coroner has pronounced Jack Harold Jones dead at 7:20 p.m. this 24th day of April. "Infirmary staff tried unsuccessfully to place a central line in Mr. Jones's neck for 45 minutes before placing one elsewhere on his body". It argued that Williams, who weighs 400 pounds, could face a "torturous" death because of his weight.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson had initially scheduled four double executions over an 11-day span in April, but a slew procedural hurdles forced the state to change course.

Lawyers filed a request on behalf of Williams for a stay of execution with both the Arkansas and U.S. Supreme Court, which were denied.

The stay was lifted about an hour later and Williams, who had been on death row for more than 20 years, was put to death.

Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Nicholas J. Bronni wrote in a court motion Monday night that "there was no constitutional violation in Jones' execution". The state said the executions needed to be carried out before its supply of midazolam, one lethal injection drug, expires on April 30.

Six to seven minutes after the injection of the first product supposed to plunge the prisoner into a deep unconsciousness, the prisoner "stirred his lips and struggled to breathe", they wrote in their appeal. At his clemency hearing, Williams said he wish he could have taken back Errickson's death and said, "to those I hurt, I'm sorry is not enough". But eye witness accounts described Jones's lips moving after he finished his last words but said there were no signs of distress, according to Reuters.

The lethal injections at the center of the controversy are composed of three drugs - midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride - administered one after another. Monday night's executions came after legal challenges reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected a stay for Williams. Its lawsuit temporarily suspended executions until the Arkansas Supreme Court overruled a lower court decision that prevented the drug from being used. Last-minute appeals failed to stop the state's third execution in five days. This set off a flurry of legal proceedings and special appeals, some of which worked in the inmates' favor. The state is also due to execute Kenneth Williams Thursday.

Death penalty opponents have protested the executions, but the spokesman for Arkansas's governor insists the right thing is being done. "The statement concluded with: "'There are no words that would fully express my remorse for the pain that I caused". He abducted Phillips and her 11-year-old daughter from an accounting office in 1995 and robbed them at gunpoint. She would have granted a stay of execution to Jones, in a case that raised claims that the state's execution process violated the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishments".

The pharmaceutical companies said there is a public health risk if their drugs are diverted for use in executions, CBS reported, and that the state's possession of the drugs violates rules within their distribution networks.

  • Larry Hoffman