By Sebastien Blanc, AFP
WASHINGTON — Arkansas executed another inmate on Thursday, the last in a series of lethal injections that the state has squeezed into a compressed time line, even as the daughter of one of his victims appealed for clemency. A plan by the conservative southern state to execute eight prisoners in 11 days — before its stock of a drug used in legal injections expires — set off a huge legal battle. It was challenged not only by lawyers for the condemned men but also pharmaceutical companies opposed to their products being used to put people to death. Four of the inmates won reprieves, but the state carried out its first execution since 2005 last Thursday, putting convicted murderer Ledell Lee to death at its Cummins Unit, near Varner, Arkansas.
Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, convicted separately of rape and murder in the 1990s, were executed on Monday in the nation’s first double execution in nearly 17 years. Kenneth Williams, 38, became the fourth inmate put to death in Arkansas in a span of eight days. Williams died after receiving a lethal injection, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement. Williams’ lawyers had argued, among other things, that their client should be spared because he is intellectually disabled. Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has said the accelerated execution timetable was necessary because the state’s stock of a sedative, midazolam, used in lethal injections will expire at the end of the month. Many of the legal clashes focus on midazolam, which is meant to render a condemned person unconscious before other drugs induce death.
Critics say it does not always adequately sedate prisoners, potentially causing undue suffering. Williams was serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old student and cheerleader Dominique Hurd when he escaped the penitentiary on October 3, 1999 by hiding in a tank used to carry kitchen scraps.
He came upon Cecil Boren, 57, on his farm not far from the prison, shot and killed the man and stole his truck. Williams drove north to Missouri, where he led police on a chase that caused the death of 24-year-old delivery driver Michael Greenwood.
Hours ahead of the execution, Greenwood’s daughter sent a letter to Hutchinson asking the governor to spare the life of her father’s killer.
“We are in no way asking you to ignore the pain felt by the victims of Mr Williams’ other crimes. We know what they are going through but ours is a pain that we have decided not to try and cure by seeking an execution,” Kayla Greenwood wrote. “His execution will not bring my father back or return to us what has been taken, but it will cause additional suffering.” She said her family, upon learning that Williams has a daughter as well as a granddaughter whom he’s never met, bought the pair plane tickets to Arkansas so they could visit him one last time. They even picked up the woman and child at the airport and drove them to the prison. Meanwhile, the Boren family said it would be relieved to know Williams had been put to death. “We’ve been waiting a long, long time for this,” Boren’s widow Genie told local news station Fox 16. “People have to be punished for things they’ve done.”