Editor's Note: Arkansas planned to execute eight people between April 17 and April 27, an unprecedented number of executions by one state in so few days. This set off a flurry of legal proceedings and special appeals, some of which worked in the inmates' favor. Due to the fluid nature of the situation, NCR will be providing a daily round up of the top news.
For previous coverage and background of the situation in Arkansas: Eight Arkansas executions, scheduled for late April, have opposition mobilizing (April 4, 2017); Yesterday’s update (April 24, 2017)
First double execution since 2000
Jack Jones and Marcel Williams were executed last night in Arkansas, marking the first double execution in the U.S. since 2000. Jones was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m. CST. Jones gave his lawyer a last written statement and also chose to speak before his execution. Both statements expressed guilt and remorse for raping and murdering Mary Phillips and his desire to be a "better person." His last words were personally directed to Lacey Phillips, Mary's daughter, who witnessed her mother's murder.
Williams was expected to be executed directly following Jones' execution. However, last minute appeals stalled his execution.
Lawyers filed a request on behalf of Williams for a stay of execution with both the Arkansas and U.S. Supreme Court, which were denied. Lawyers also filed a stay of execution with U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker immediately following Jones' execution, claiming that his death was proof of midazolam's ineffectiveness. An emergency stay of execution was temporarily issued by Baker to examine the case. The order was lifted at approximately 9:30 p.m. CST and the execution proceeded. He declined to provide any last words and was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m.
Williams was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Stacy Ericksson in 1994. Around the time of Ericksson's murder, Williams allegedly attacked and raped three other women. One of those women, Dina Windle, flew in to be present for Williams' clemency hearing that took place in March. During the hearing, Windle asked for Williams' life to be spared, saying that she had forgiven him.
According to a statement from Jason Kearney, an attorney for Williams, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to speak with Windle during a clemency hearing April 24.
"This morning Governor Asa Hutchinson met with lawyers for Marcel Williams to hear our plea for clemency. We asked that he call Dina Windle, who was one of Mr. Williams's victims," Kearney said in a statement April 24. "Ms. Windle has forgiven Mr. Williams and spoke out at his clemency hearing in support of clemency. We are disappointed to hear that after much talk of concern for the victims and their families Governor Hutchinson has not spoken to Ms. Windle."
Last minute appeals were also raised about testimony that was omitted from Williams' original trial. His lawyers claim that had the jury heard details surrounding Williams' childhood, he would not have been sentenced to death. The Fair Punishment Project details the sexual and physical abuse Williams endured during childhood, including a report that his "mother was routinely pimping him … in exchange for food stamps, for food, for a place to stay." The U.S. Supreme Court denied Williams' request for a stay of execution.
It is unclear whether the executions went as "flawless" as J.R. Davis, the governor's spokesman, claimed. Andrew DeMillo, a reporter from The Associated Press who witnessed Jones' execution, said "Jones moved his lips briefly after the midazolam was administered, and officials put a tongue depressor in his mouth intermittently for the first few minutes."
Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said that the lip movement was Jones apologizing and thanking department director, Wendy Kelley.
Another report from The Associated Press said Williams experienced "labored breathing" and "grimaced slightly before losing consciousness."
Next scheduled execution
The final Arkansas execution, Kenneth Williams, is scheduled for Thursday. Jason McGehee was also scheduled for execution on April 27 but was granted a stay of execution April 6.
[Kristen Whitney Daniels is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @KWhitneyDaniels.]