Governor’s office: ‘Justice was carried out tonight’

by George Jared ([email protected]) 581 views 

Arkansas reportedly became the first state since 2000 to execute two death row inmates on the same day Monday night at the Cummins Unit on the Arkansas Department of Correction campus at Varner.

Convicted killer Marcel Williams received a temporary stay late in the evening, but when it expired he was put to death through lethal injection. Earlier that night Jack Jones Jr. died after receiving a toxic cocktail of drugs. Williams’ attorneys argued Jones suffered during his execution, and at one point into the procedure was “moving his lips” and “gulping for air.”

Associated Press reporter Andrew DeMillo, a live witness at the execution, told Talk Business & Politics that Jones did move his lips, but it was moments after he gave his final statement. None of the other witnesses to Jones’ execution reported any visible signs he was in pain. The executions were the second and third carried out by the state in the last four days.

“We know justice was carried out tonight … earlier I used the word flawless. It’s the truth,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s spokesman J.R. Davis said. “There is no doubt in our minds it went the way it was supposed to go.”

Williams slightly shook his head when asked if he had any final statements to make. Diabetic, and weighing about 400 pounds, his attorneys had argued the state’s lethal injection methods would cause him more pain than an average inmate. He was originally slated to die at 8:15 p.m., but a temporary stay was granted so that cruel and unusual punishment arguments could be vetted.

Jones was similarly obese, and suffered from diabetes. Medical staffers attempted to place a central line in Jones’ neck for 45 minutes, before placing it in another part of his body, according to a court filing. Williams didn’t have this procedure done, meaning he would be more prone to pain and torture, his attorneys argued.

The first time Williams was escorted into the death chamber he looked straight forward and never peered outside as twilight canvassed the sky for the final time in his life. He was strapped to the gurney for an undisclosed amount of time, according to media witnesses. At one point, witnesses were moved from the viewing room to a waiting van. Before leaving the room, the words “I’m not letting you out” emanated from the death chamber where Williams was restrained. ADC officials confirmed that during the stay, Williams was allowed to use the restroom back in his cell. A short time later witnesses were escorted back into the room.

At 10:16 p.m. the curtains in the viewing room were lifted. Williams was restrained with IVs in his right arm. After refusing to give a final statement, drugs were pumped into his body. During the first few minutes, Williams continued to breathe heavily. His eyes closed, but the right eye remained slightly opened throughout the entire procedure. His lips appeared to grimace at one point, AP News Editor Kelly Kissel said.

“I didn’t get the sense it was discomfort,” he said.

Media witnesses reported a possible second dose of sedative was given to Williams a little more than five minutes after the execution began. By 10:24 Williams didn’t appear to be breathing. He was officially declared dead at 10:33 p.m.

Stacy Errickson, 22, decided to drive herself to work. Errickson usually car-pooled with a friend, but on Nov. 20, 1994 she drove her own vehicle. She stopped at a Jacksonville-area gas station. A man approached. Two other women would later tell police about the same man menacing them around the same time.

Marcel Williams brandished a firearm and made Errickson move to the passenger seat. They stopped at ATM machines and he forced her to withdraw $350. Errickson never arrived at work. The last attempted transaction was at 7:37 a.m. She never picked her children up from the babysitter.

He then drove her to a storage unit facility where he brutally raped her. He relentlessly beat her and ultimately strangled her with the drawstring from the hood of her own jacket, according to prosecutors. During the next three days, he abducted and raped two other young women in the area. He told police Stacy was still alive, giving Stacy’s family false hope.

Her body was found in a shallow grave at a nearby park almost a month later. She’d been raped and strangled. Williams was initially interviewed by police Nov. 29, 1994, more than two weeks before her body was found. He admitted to police he abducted her, but told them he only robbed her. As far as he knew she was still alive, and he didn’t sexually assault her.

Jones was charged with capital murder, robbery, and rape.

After the execution, ADC spokesman Solomon Graves was pressed by reporters as to why the audio in the death chamber is muted during the actual execution. Graves was unable to give a rationale. Davis chimed in, saying its a policy that has been in place for more than 20 years. He admonished the press core, telling them to focus on the grieving families and victims and to “not get hung up on the policy.”

Davis went further, stating the ADC followed all procedures in place, and exercised caution during both executions on Monday night. Both were slightly longer by a few minutes than the execution of Ledell Lee on April 20, but that isn’t out of the norm, he said. Family members of the victim chose to not speak afterwards.

Hutchinson had proposed to execute eight inmates during the final two weeks of April, a move without precedent in U.S. legal history, according to experts. The state’s supply of one of the drugs used is set to expire at the end of April, which prompted the rush. Arkansas hadn’t killed a Death Row inmate since 2005.

Four men tapped to be killed, Jason McGehee, Don Davis, Bruce Ward and Stacey Johnson, have had their executions postponed due to stays or injunctions filed by different courts in recent weeks. The executions of Lee was part of what was originally an order by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to execute eight inmates between April 17 and April 27. The original execution schedule was:

• 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.

Kenneth Williams is the last person slated to be executed before the drug expires. Without a stay or injunction, he will be executed Thursday.