Update on Arkansas executions: April 28

Solomon Graves, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman, walks ahead of witnesses John Moritz, left, from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sean Murphy, AP, and Marine Glisovic, KATV, discussing the April 20 execution of Ledell Lee. (Newscom/Zuma Press/Miguel Juarez Lugo)

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. Today will be the final day 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 27, 2017)

For more background on the death penalty issues facing the U.S. listen to: NCR Podcast: Death penalty and 100 days of Trump (April 28, 2017)

Last night, Arkansas executed their fourth death row inmate in 8 days. Kenneth Williams became the final inmate to be executed in Arkansas' plan to execute eight people between April 17 and April 27 —preceded by the executions of Ledell Lee, Jack Jones and Marcel Williams. Kenneth Williams' execution began after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a stay of execution.

Concerns over execution

After concerns following Jones’ and Marcel Williams' executions, there are again conflicting reports from the state and witnesses as to the "success" of the execution. State Sen. Trent Garner posted on Twitter, "I witnessed the #ARexecutions; the inmate did not suffer or seem in pain. His face was calm. It was not cruel, unusual, botched or torture."

J.R. Davis, a spokesperson for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, again called the execution "flawless." Davis did not expect a review of the execution, saying that any of Williams' motions could be attributed to "involuntary muscular reaction."

The statements from Davis are a stark contrast to the media witnesses for the execution.

A report from the Associated Press states that Williams experienced heavy breathing and "lurched forward 15 times in quick succession, then another five times at a slower rate." Jodie Efird, the daughter of one of Williams' victims and a witness to the execution, said that "any kind of movement he had was far less than his victims."

In response to the reports, a lawyer for Williams is calling for a full investigation. 

Shawn Nolan, one of Williams' attorneys, released a statement following the execution saying that reports from the witnesses are "horrifying" and "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."

See Related: Is the death penalty un-Christian? (April 28, 2017)

"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," Nolan stated. "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 European Union appealed to Hutchinson asking him to commute Williams' sentence. Following his execution they issued a statement decrying his execution and all capital punishment sentences.

[Kristen Whitney Daniels is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is kdaniels@ncronline.org. Follow her on Twitter: @KWhitneyDaniels.]

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