Arkansas put to death two convicted killers Monday night in the first back-to-back executions in any state since 2000 as officials moved to carry out multiple death sentences before the expiration of a key lethal-injection drug.
Marcel Wayne Williams, 46, died at 10:33 p.m., following the execution of Jack Harold Jones Jr., 52, who was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m., after federal and state courts denied a spate of last-minute appeals based on the inmates’ health and the efficacy of the state’s three-drug protocol.
The double execution, the first since Texas put to death two inmates on the same day in 2000, came with state officials on a condensed timetable to carry out the death sentences before the state’s supply of the sedative midazolam expires April 30.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an execution order in February for eight inmates to be put to death between April 17-27, but four have received stays of execution or delays that will push their cases beyond April 30.
“A governor never asks for this responsibility, but I accept it as part of the solemn pledge I made to uphold the law,” Mr. Hutchinson said in a statement after the Jones execution.
Jones had acknowledged his guilt in the 1995 murder and rape of Mary Phillips, a 34-year-old bookkeeper who was found with a coffee-pot cord tied around her neck at her office. Her 11-year-old daughter Lacy Phillips, who had accompanied her mother to work, was found badly beaten but survived.
In a final statement that lasted about two minutes, Jones said he was “sorry” and told Lacy that hoped “over time you can learn who I really am and I am not a monster,” The Associated Press reported.
The lethal-injection process for Jones took about 14 minutes with no apparent signs of complications.
“Jack Jones expressed his willingness to proceed today, and we hope this will help bring closure to the Phillips family,” Mr. Hutchinson said.
Williams was convicted of raping and murdering 22-year-old Stacy Errickson after kidnapping her from a Jacksonville gas station and forcing her to withdraw money from several ATMs in 1994.
Williams was pronounced dead about 17 minutes after the process began, the AP reported.
The second execution was originally scheduled for 8:15 p.m., but was delayed after a federal judge granted and then lifted a temporary stay in response to a last-minute request by Williams’s attorneys, who argued that Jones may have suffered during the lethal-injection process.
“After more than 20 years, justice has prevailed for the family of Stacey Errickson,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “I reviewed this case thoroughly and determined that clemency should not be granted. I appreciate the patience and long-suffering of the Errickson family through this ordeal.”
Jones and Williams were the second and third inmates to be executed under the state’s condensed timetable. The first, Ledell Lee, 51, was put to death Thursday.
Lee’s was the first execution in Arkansas since 2005 as a result of a legal battle over the lethal-injection protocol, which was resolved in the state’s favor on Feb. 21, leaving just 10 weeks to carry out executions before the drug expires.
State officials have been unable to procure additional supplies of the sedative midazolam, the first of three drugs used in the protocol, as a result of pharmaceutical companies increasingly refusing to provide products for executions.
McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. has fought to force the state to return supplies of another drug, vecuronium bromide, arguing that the product was provided on the condition that it be used for legitimate medical purposes only.
The meal requested by Jones was three pieces of fried chicken, potato logs with tartar sauce, beef jerky bites, three Butterfinger bars, a chocolate milkshake with Butterfinger bits and fruit punch, according to the Arkansas Times.
Williams’ last meal was three pieces of fried chicken, banana pudding, nachos with chili cheese and jalapeno, and potato logs with ketchup, the Times reported.
At one point, attorneys for Williams argued that he was too overweight at 400 pounds to be put to death, while Jones said his medical problems, including diabetes, made him too unhealthy, both contending that their physical issues would cause them to suffer during the lethal-injection process.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling denying Jones’ motion that witnesses said “at no time did Lee show any signs of physical distress, such as gasping, groaning or struggling against the restraints.”
“The evidence that Jones provides regarding his specific medical conditions falls short of distinguishing himself from Lee or any other inmates, and it fails to demonstrate that the protocol will create a demonstrated risk of severe pain if applied to him,” the court said.
The last inmate facing execution before the April 30 expiration deadline is Kenneth Dewayne Williams, who is slated to be put to death Thursday for the 1999 slaying of Cecil Boren after breaking out of prison, where he had been serving a life sentence for the murder of University of Arkansas student Dominique “Nikki” Hurd.
• This story was based in part on wire-service reports.