LITTLE ROCK, AR — Witnesses to the double execution carried out by the state of Arkansas on Monday night have offered wildly differing accounts of their experiences.
The Arkansas Department of Correction administered its lethal-injection cocktail to Jack Jones, 52 (above, left), at 7:06 P.M. CST and a coroner pronounced him dead at 7:20 P.M. Marcel Williams, 46 (right), was declared dead by the same procedure just over three hours later at 10:33 P.M. CST.
An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution of Jack Jones, which took 14 minutes, said he saw Jones move his lips for about a minute after he completed his final words — but that it was unclear whether Jones was speaking.
Attorneys for Marcel Williams, who was executed after Jones, said that Jones was moving his lips and gulping for air about five minutes into the lethal injection, and argued that the execution appeared to be “torturous and inhumane.” Jones’ attorney said that he witnessed his client’s mouth moving five minutes into the execution, three to five times.
A state prison spokesman said Jones was speaking to state Correction Department Director Wendy Kelley when his lips moved, but did not know if a transcript was available. The state does not record audio or video of its executions.
Republican Representative Kim Hammer, who witnessed both executions Monday night, said he saw Jones moving his lips for about 30 to 45 seconds as though he were speaking, but did not notice the inmate gulping for air. Hammer reported that he “saw nothing that was inhumane that would have caused me to change my mind” about the death penalty.
And J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Governor Asa Hutchinson, described the executions as “flawless.”
According to a log of the execution released by the state Tuesday, it took officials eight minutes to connect Jones to IV lines, and 40 minutes to connect Williams.While he was on the gurney, Williams’ death sentence was briefly put on hold after his lawyers asked for and received a stay by claiming that Jones’ execution was “torturous.” During this time, he was allowed to go back to his cell and use the toilet before returning to the death chamber.
Jones’ and Williams’ executions are part of an aggressive schedule set by Hutchinson that originally planned to execute eight men within 10 days, because a key lethal-injection drug expires at the end of the month.
Four of those executions were blocked by courts, but Arkansas executed Ledell Lee on Thursday night.
It’s unclear whether the concerns over Jones’ execution could pose challenges for the state’s plan to execute Kenneth Williams on Thursday night.
Main photo: Jack Jones (left) and Marcel Williams (right) [Arkansas Department of Correction]