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Fourth and Final Execution Expected Tonight

A recent series of executions in Arkansas could conclude tonight if the state puts inmate Kenneth Williams to death. He is currently scheduled for lethal injection at 7pm, and his attorneys are spending the day exploring last-minute legal options for a stay. By early afternoon, Williams had lost all claims to the state Supreme Court but still had a complaint pending in Circuit Court of Pulaski County claiming that he is at high risk for a painful death from the three-drug lethal injection cocktail due to sickle cell trait, Lupus and organic brain damage. His supporters have also claimed that Williams has a low I.Q. (70) and should not be eligible for the death penalty.

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Arkansas is preparing to carry out the final execution it has scheduled for the month of April.

Death row inmate Kenneth Williams, 38, is slated to die by lethal injection in a process that is to begin at 7pm.

Williams was convicted of the 1998 killing of a 19-year-old University of Pine Bluff cheerleader, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. While interned at the Arkansas Department Correction's Cummins Unit, he escaped on a prison vehicle's hog slop container.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas executed two men in one night this week, and there is a dispute about how it went. Attorneys for the first man executed Monday, Jack Jones, say he gasped for air as he died. Media witnesses say they simply saw Jones’ lips moving. None of the execution witnesses were allowed to hear Jones’ sounds.

Andrew DeMillo, an Associated Press reporter who witnessed Jones’ execution, reported back to other journalists at the prison that Jones’ lips had moved during the lethal injection process.

The Arkansas executions quickly took over Twitter Monday evening, as those watching the events furiously tweeted rage, regret, sorrow and celebration in 140 characters or less.

Sister Helen Prejean, the anti-death penalty activist who was portrayed by Susan Sarandon in the 1995 film “Dead Man Walking,” tweeted all evening about seeking a last-minute miracle, ultimately resigning to the fact that the executions would take place and asking for the victims’ families to be included in prayers.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Without any official program, anti-death penalty protesters busied themselves Monday evening with song and prayer. And Twitter.

"'The court reinstituted Marcell Williams' death sentence for procedural reason no more.' What? Hold on, let's figure out what's happening."

Laura Hardy said the thing that’s most gotten under her skin the last couple of weeks of Arkansas executions has been the seemingly gleeful, baiting comments made on Twitter and elsewhere from Arkansas politicians. 

Arkansas Executes Inmate Jack Jones

Apr 24, 2017
Corrections Department

Arkansas inmate Jack Jones was pronounced dead at 7:20pm Thursday evening.  Earlier in the day, he exhausted all appeals to state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Jones was executed for the 1995 slaying of bookkeeper and mother Mary Phillips in front of her 11-year-old daughter.  Witnesses reported the execution via a three-drug lethal injection cocktail took about fourteen minutes.

Inmate Marcel Williams is expected to be executed tonight as well, making Arkansas the first state to carry out a double execution since 2000.

Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

10:39 Update:

An ADC spokesman says Marcel Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. The procedure began at 10:16. 

A spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Correction declared that Jack Jones was executed Monday night by lethal injection. His execution began at 7:06 p.m. and he was declared dead at 7:20 p.m.

"He was covered in a sheet with his arms extended," said media witness, Andrew DeMillo, from the Associated Press. DeMillo noted Jones' lips continued moving for several minutes after the execution began though witnesses were not able to hear sound from the execution chamber.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

A legal challenge to Monday's planned execution of Jack Jones was rejected by the state Supreme Court.

In an Arkansas Public Media story yesterday reported Jack Jones’ attorney Jeff Rosenzweig objected to the jury in Jones' sentencing. Specifically, they filled out paperwork to show contradictory findings about whether there were valid reasons, or mitigating factors, to avoid a death penalty sentence.

His attorney Jeff Rosenzweig argued precedent in Arkansas is to grant re-sentencing when there’s been such an error.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkanas Public Media

Reporters, as a rule, don't like waiting or wondering. For those covering Arkansas's executions, the night begins around dinner time and, at least this week, didn't end until after midnight, and as late as 11:00 no one knew what exactly would happen.  With his death warrant set to expire at midnight, Ledell Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56pm from the three-drug lethal injection cocktail that had been administered some twelve minutes earlier.

Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas has executed Ledell Lee, who was convicted of murdering a woman in 1993.  The execution came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the lethal injection.  Bobby Amepezzan covered the story from the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections.  This story aired on Morning Edition on April 21.

Corrections Department

With his death warrant set to expire at midnight, inmate Ledell Lee died at 11:56pm, as confirmed by the Corrections Department.  After another day of legal drama, the execution got underway shortly after word came that the U.S. Supreme Court would not take action to prevent the state from putting Lee to death via lethal injection.

Lee claimed that he was innocent in the February 1993 beating death of 26-year-old Debra Reese during a robbery in her home.  Prosecutors said he beat Reese multiple times with a tire iron and had a previous history of brutal assaults on women.  Lee was 51 when he died Thursday night, the first of several planned executions.

The other executions are set for April 24 and April 27.

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