Federal judge orders preservation of evidence from body of executed Arkansas inmate

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 793 views 

U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker has ordered the state to collect blood and sample tissues from and conduct an autopsy on the body of Kenneth Williams, the death row inmate who was executed Thursday (April 27).

The lethal injection process with Williams began Thursday at 10:52 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m. Media witnesses said he experienced 20 seconds of “coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking with sound” following the midzalom injection. Midzalom is the first drug used in the three-drug execution protocol. A spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections described Williams as “shaking” for about 10 seconds during the process.

In a statement sent Saturday to the media, attorneys for Williams brought attention to Judge Baker’s ruling and claimed that Williams suffered a painful death.

“Attorneys for Mr. Williams have no doubt that he suffered an extremely painful death based on what they personally witnessed. They have also stated that because all of the prisoners were paralyzed during their executions over the past eight days, they cannot know whether Marcel Williams, Jack Jones, and Ledell Lee ‘were not also consciously suffocating,’” noted the statement.

Williams’ attorneys filed Friday the request to preserve evidence from Williams’ body. Judge Baker, who serves in the Eastern District of Arkansas, ordered the evidence collected by 8 p.m. Friday.

“The Court orders Director Wendy Kelley to request that the Arkansas State Medical Examiner’s Office collect by 8:00 p.m. tonight blood and tissue samples from Kenneth Williams’ body as provided for in plaintiffs’ emergency motion, and to conduct an autopsy consistent with the Medical Examiner’s normal practice at the appropriate time,” noted Baker’s ruling.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this year set execution dates two at a time over an 11-day period starting April 17 and ending April 27.
• April 17: Don Davis, Bruce Ward;
• April 20: Stacey Johnson, Ledelle Lee;
• April 24: Marcel Williams, Jack Jones; and
• April 27: Jason McGehee, Kenneth Williams.

However, in separate legal actions, stays of executions were granted for Davis, Ward, Johnson and McGehee. Lee was executed Thursday (April 20). Marcel Williams and Jones were executed April 24, marking the first time since 2000 a state executed two inmates in one day.

Shawn Nolan, an attorney for Williams, issued this statement after Thursday’s execution of Williams: “The accounts of the execution of Mr. Williams tonight are horrifying. We tried over and over again to get the state to comport with their own protocol to avoid torturing our client to death, and yet reports from the execution witnesses indicate that Mr. Williams suffered during this execution. Press reports state that within three minutes into the execution, our client began coughing, convulsing, jerking and lurching with sound that was audible even with the microphone turned off. This is very disturbing, but not at all surprising, given the history of the risky sedative midazolam, which has been used in many botched executions. What’s important right now is that all the information about tonight’s execution must be meticulously documented and preserved so that we can discover exactly what happened in that execution chamber. The courts were wrong for not intervening. Governor Hutchinson’s spokesman, who commented that our client experienced “involuntary muscular reactions,” is simply trying to whitewash the reality of what happened. We are requesting a full investigation into tonight’s problematic execution.”

The office of Gov. Hutchinson referred a Talk Business & Politics request for comment about Baker’s ruling to the office of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Her office declined to comment.

Gov. Hutchinson said a routine review of the execution would happen, but told reporters during a Friday press conference that no special investigation is necessary.

“When you look back at the four executions, they were all done in accordance with protocols established by DOC,” he said. “I’ve not seen any indication of pain. … I see no reason for any investigation other than the routine review that is done after every execution.”

Williams killed Cecil Boren after escaping from an Arkansas prison facility near Grady, Ark. Williams was apprehended one day after the killing, on Oct. 4, 1999. He was reportedly wearing his victim’s clothes. A year later he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

But immediately following Boren’s murder, Williams took the dead man’s truck and headed north. In Missouri, he got into a high speed chase with law officers. During the chase that spanned almost 60 miles starting in Lebanon, Mo., Williams struck another vehicle, killing the driver, Michael Greenwood. After police arrested him following a short pursuit on foot, Williams reportedly spat at Greenwood’s body and blamed him for his failed escape attempt. He was wearing two of Cecil Boren’s rings when he was arrested.

Williams’ journey to the state’s Death Row began less than a year before his encounter with Boren. Williams approached two college students, Peter Robertson and Dominique Hurd, a cheerleader at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, in a restaurant parking lot Dec. 13, 1998 in Pine Bluff. He brandished a gun and kidnapped them. He directed the couple to an ATM machine where he stole $70 from Robertson’s account.

He ordered them to drive down several dead-end streets. At one point he told the couple to exit the car, and forced Robertson to take pictures of Hurd after Williams removed her underwear. They drove down another dead-end street and he ordered them to climb a fence and kneel behind a shed. He was about to drive away when he stopped and opened fire on the couple. Hurd was killed.