Arkansas Executions: April 27 updates
12:15 a.m. Friday » Despite reports of shaking, governor's spokesman describes execution as 'flawless'
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's spokesman described the state's fourth execution in eight days as flawless, despite media witness reports that Kenneth Williams was shaking three minutes after the lethal-injection process began.
J.R. Davis told the reporters the shake was an "involuntary muscular reaction."
"It's a long path of justice ending tonight," Davis said.
The governor is confident that the Arkansas Department of Correction did what it's supposed to, his spokesman said.
Arkansas originally scheduled eight executions in 11 days in April, before the state's supply of one of the three drugs used in its lethal-protocol runs out.
Davis said Thursday night that he doesn't know if plans are in place for the state to acquire more midazolam.
— Emma Pettit and Jillian Kremer
Three minutes after his lethal injection began, Arkansas inmate Kenneth Williams began coughing, convulsing and lurching with sound that was audible even with a microphone turned off, media witnesses to his execution said.
State news editor Kelly Kissel said that Williams' body lurched forward at 10:55 p.m., three minutes after the midazolam was administered. He described the movement as "when you're on a bumpy road and you hit a bump." Williams lurched forward 15 times in a period of 10 to 15 seconds, Kissel said.
He then lurched forward more slowly five times and began "striving for breath," according to witnesses.
The "labored breathing" continued until 10:59 p.m., Kissel said.
An attendant performed a consciousness check at 10:57 p.m., checking Williams' pupils.
Williams was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.
Kissel, who has witnessed 10 executions — including two in which midazolam has been used — said this is the most he's seen an inmate move.
It was the first execution witnessed by Donna Terrell of Little Rock's Fox 16, who said it was not what she expected.
It looked like it “wasn't going smoothly," she said.
Pine Bluff Commercial reporter Knowles Adkisson described Williams' face as serene.
A family member of Cecil Boren, who Williams killed after escaping prison in October 1999, said Williams showed "no change in his facial expression" to show any pain.
Jodie Efird added that “any amount of movement he had was far less than any of his victims.”
Convicted murderer Kenneth Williams has been put to death by lethal injection in the fourth execution in Arkansas in eight days.
Williams' lethal injection was administered at 10:52 p.m., according to Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves. He was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.
The execution had originally been scheduled for 7 p.m., but the state opted to delay — even without a formal stay in place — while the U.S. Supreme Court considered multiple petitions from Williams, including one that contended he is "intellectually disabled" and shouldn't be put to death.
Shortly after 10 p.m., word came from the nation's high court that all requests for stays had been denied.
In a written final statement, Williams apologized for his crimes.
“I humbly extend my sincerest of apologies to the families I have senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones," he wrote in a statement. "I was more than wrong. The crimes I perpetrated against you all were senseless, extremely hurtful and inexcusable.”
The statement was signed "Minister Kenneth D. Williams, Arkansas death-row preacher."
In his final spoken words in the death chamber, Williams said he is "not the same person I was."
"I have been transformed," Williams said. "Some things can't be undone. I seek forgiveness."
Williams then told the witnesses he would begin to use his "native language." At that point, he "spoke in what would commonly be described as speaking in tongues," Graves said.
Graves said he was informed that Williams shook "for approximately 10 seconds" at 10:55 p.m. Midazolam was the only drug administered at that time, and the consciousness check was not performed until 10:57 p.m., the spokesman said.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Williams' death — and those of three other death-row inmates before him this month — shows "that our system of laws in this state has worked."
"Carrying out the penalty of the jury in the Kenneth Williams case was necessary," Hutchinson said in a statement. "There has never been a question of guilt."
In a separate statement, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she prayed the execution brings "closure and peace to the Boren family."
“Tonight the rule of law was upheld as the family of Cecil Boren saw justice done," she said. "On October 3, 1999, Cecil was simply going about his daily life at his home near the Cummins Prison Unit when he was shot and killed by an escapee who was serving life imprisonment without parole for capital murder."
Williams was convicted in the fatal shooting of 57-year-old Boren after he escaped from prison in October 1999. The then-20-year-old Williams was serving a life sentence without parole at the Cummins Unit for the killing of Dominique Hurd, a 19-year-old University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff cheerleader.
Williams was sentenced Sept. 15, 1999, for Hurd’s death and was in prison for less than a month before he escaped by hiding in a hog slop tank, a tank used to carry kitchen scraps. He made his way to Boren's farm, about 4 miles away.
Williams then shot Boren seven times, dressed up in his clothes, stole his truck and drove to Missouri.
He led police on a high-speed chase before he crashed into another vehicle, killing a 24-year-old delivery driver, Michael Greenwood.
Williams also admitted to killing another person, 36-year-old Jerrell Jenkins of Pine Bluff, in a 2005 letter to the Pine Bluff Commercial.
Williams was one of the eight men originally scheduled to die over 11 days at the end of April before one of the three drugs in the state's lethal-injection protocol expires. The state's supply of midazolam will expire at the end of the month.
Four of those eight men's lethal injections were halted by the courts. Three others — Ledell Lee, Jack Jones and Marcel Williams — have been executed since April 20.
Hutchinson said the victims' families "were finally provided the justice they were promised and they also saw that our system of laws have meaning.”
Before Williams was put to death, the daughter of one of his victims wrote to Gov. Asa Hutchinson asking him to halt the execution. Kayla Greenwood, daughter of Michael Greenwood, said her family was unaware that Williams' execution date was set and that she would have argued for clemency to the Parole Board if she had known.
A court challenge by Williams based on that argument was also unsuccessful.
10:52 p.m. » Lethal-injection process not yet begun 40 minutes after U.S. Supreme Court clears way for execution
About 40 minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution of Kenneth Williams, the lethal-injection process has not yet begun.
Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said "preparations" are still being done as of 10:50 p.m.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to issue stays for Kenneth Williams, clearing the way for his execution to commence.
Williams' execution had initially been scheduled for 7 p.m., but the state waited on word from pending petitions before the nation's high court.
Shortly after 10 p.m., officials received word that all stays had been denied.
10:05 p.m. » Hutchinson, Arkansas AG to discuss next steps in execution process as state waits on U.S. Supreme Court decision
Gov. Asa Hutchinson is speaking with the Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to discuss the next steps in the execution of convicted murderer scheduled to die before midnight, officials said.
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently discussing multiple petitions by inmate Kenneth Williams, who was set to be executed at 7 p.m., but the lethal injection has been pushed back until the country's highest court makes a decision, Davis said.
There are currently no stays preventing Williams from being put to death, Davis said, noting that the Supreme Court requested time to review the cases, and Arkansas granted that request. Hutchinson was set to speak with Rutledge at 10 p.m. about “what they are hearing” from the country's highest court and go from there.
When asked if Hutchinson would start the lethal injection process without the Supreme Court weighing in, Davis said they will “cross that bridge when they get to it.”
As it stands, “time isn't an issue right now,” Davis said. The death warrant for Williams expires at midnight.
Williams is currently in a cell adjacent to the execution chamber with his counsel, prison spokesman Solomon Graves said.
Williams was sentenced to death in the 1999 murder of Cecil Boren, though he has admitted to killing four people in total.
Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky
The state of Arkansas is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to deny requests by condemned inmate Kenneth Williams and to allow his execution to proceed.
In a 43-page filing Thursday night, Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky called challenges filed by Williams' lawyers an "obvious and continuing attempt to overwhelm the courts with last-minute" delays. He asked the nation's high court to deny the claims and allow Williams to be executed for the " cold-blooded murder of Cecil Boren nearly two decades ago."
"Williams wrongly suggests that this Court should stay his imminent execution to review each of these cases," Rudofsky wrote. "Williams has had many years in which to litigate the claims at issue here, and ultimately elected not to do so until just days before his execution."
Williams in court filings Thursday asked the Supreme Court to block his execution because he is "intellectually disabled."
Rudofsky challenged that, noting that Williams previously dropped a claim that his mental status should preclude him from being executed after he scored a 78 on an IQ test. That places him "well outside the intellectually disabled range."
No stay has been issued stopping Williams from being executed, but J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said earlier Thursday that the state would not commence the lethal injection process until the Supreme Court rules on the challenges before it.
Williams was scheduled to be executed beginning at 7 p.m. Asked shortly before 8:30 p.m. what would happen if the court's process continues into the night, Davis said the state's "intent is to carry that [execution] out tonight, but we're willing to work with the Supreme Court."
Williams' death warrant expires at midnight.
6:48 p.m. » Arkansas waiting on U.S. Supreme Court decision before starting execution process, spokesman says
Arkansas will not begin the lethal injection process for condemned inmate Kenneth Williams until a handful of court cases before the U.S. Supreme Court are resolved, the governor's spokesman told reporters.
The country's highest court needs more time to review the cases before Williams' execution, slated to begin at 7 p.m., J.R. Davis said. Once he gets word that the cases have been resolved, Davis will notify the media if and when the execution will proceed, he said.
Davis did not have an exact count of the pending cases before the court.
Williams was serving a life sentence for the murder of 19-year-old Dominique Hurd in 1999 when he escaped and killed a Lincoln County farmer and then led police on a chase to Missouri. During the chase, Williams collided with another vehicle and killed 24-year-old delivery driver Michael Greenwood.
U.S. District Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. declined to issue a stay over Williams' contention filed Thursday evening that the Greenwood family should have been notified of his clemency hearing so they could attend.
Marshall noted the clemency proceedings were "marred by procedural errors" but not enough to warrant a halting of the execution. The judge said the Parole Board was under no legal obligation to notify the Greenwood family and that Williams "got the process the Constitution requires."
In a letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Michael Greenwood's daughter asked the governor to spare Williams' life and said her family was unaware of the clemency hearing, which they would otherwise have attended. Hutchinson later issued a statement noting Kayla Greenwood's "genuine spirit of forgiveness and compassion" but declining to stop the execution.
"Of course it would have been better if the Greenwood family would have appeared and expressed their views with the Boren family," he wrote. "But the record does not show that the Greenwoods requested notice of clemency proceedings. And they were not the next of kin of the victim that Williams was convicted of murdering."
Williams filed an additional motion Thursday evening to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Eighth District Court of Appeals denied his request to halt his execution.
Arkansas death-row inmate Kenneth Williams has asked a federal district court to halt his lethal injection set for tonight, citing new evidence.
His attorneys argued in a filing that they recently became aware that one of his victims' families was in support of clemency but was not made aware of his clemency application.
The lawyers cited a letter that Kayla Greenwood sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier Thursday asking him to halt the execution. Greenwood's father, Michael, was killed in a car crash as Williams was fleeing police in October 1999.
Williams' lethal injection is set for 7 p.m. tonight.
Condemned inmate Kenneth Williams, set to die Thursday evening by lethal injection, chose Communion administered by his spiritual adviser as his final meal, officials said.
Williams asked to receive the religious ritual from his spiritual adviser before he is scheduled to be lethally injected at 7 p.m., prisons spokesman Solomon Graves said at the Cummins Unit in Grady.
Graves said he did not know at this time who Williams' spiritual adviser is. Williams is Protestant and was given Communion, which consisted of a wafer and juice, between 3 to 4 p.m., Graves said.
He also received the standard meal tray given to all inmates Thursday, Graves said. On that tray were two pieces of fried chicken, barbecue beans, sweet rice, stewed seasoned tomatoes, whole kernel corn, four slices of bread, two cinnamon rolls and two cookies, Graves said.
Williams was condemned to death in the fatal shooting of 57-year-old Cecil Boren after he escaped from prison in October 1999. Williams was already serving a life sentence at the Cummins Unit for the killing of Dominique Hurd, a 19-year-old University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff cheerleader.
After he escaped, Williams made his way to Boren's farm, shot and killed the farmer and then led police on a chase to Missouri. During the chase, Williams collided with another vehicle and killed 24-year-old delivery driver Michael Greenwood.
In addition to Hurd, Boren and Greenwood, Williams admitted to killing another person, 36-year-old Jerrell Jenkins of Pine Bluff, in a 2005 letter to the Pine Bluff Commercial.
While addressing reporters, Graves also said the three media witnesses would be chosen at 6 p.m. The Department of Correction has not changed its protocol on viewing executions since Monday, Graves said, meaning the microphone in the execution chamber will be turned off after Williams gives his final statement.
5:19 p.m. » 2 more courts deny Arkansas death-row inmate's requests to halt execution set for tonight
Multiple requests to halt the execution of convicted murderer Kenneth Williams have been denied by separate courts.
In a one-page ruling released Thursday shortly after 5 p.m., the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Williams' request.
In a separate ruling also released Thursday afternoon, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie M. Pierce dismissed Williams' complaint, allowing the execution, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight, to go forward.
Williams, sentenced to death for the October 1999 slaying of Lincoln County farmer Cecil Boren, has a claim pending before the U.S. Supreme Court in which his lawyers argue that he is intellectually disabled.
4:58 p.m. » Arkansas AG's office urges U.S. Supreme Court to deny inmate's request for execution stay
The Arkansas attorney general's office has filed a response to the U.S. Supreme Court, urging justices to deny death-row inmate Kenneth Williams' request that his execution be halted.
Williams' motion, filed earlier Thursday, argues that he is intellectually disabled and “categorically ineligible to be put to death.”
In its response, the state wrote that Williams has "a long (and all too often successful) history of using piecemeal and dilatory litigation to manipulate the judicial process."
The office argued that the record shows Williams is not intellectually disabled because he earlier brought and dropped a claim that he was and waited until the day of his execution to file a new variation on that claim.
Williams' execution is set for 7 p.m. tonight. If his lethal injection is carried out, he will be the fourth inmate put to death in Arkansas since April 17.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected two requests to stop the scheduled execution of Kenneth Williams.
The court denied requests for execution stays for Williams, who is set to be put to death at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Williams still has several other legal challenges pending in multiple courts. His attorneys have said he's intellectually disabled and that he has medical conditions that could make his execution painful.
Williams' attorneys are also questioning whether two inmates put to death earlier this week suffered during their executions.
If executed, Williams would be the fourth inmate put to death in Arkansas over the past eight days.
1:55 p.m. » Death-row inmate asks U.S. Supreme Court to halt execution over 'intellectual disability'
Attorneys for condemned inmate Kenneth Williams have filed for a stay of his execution in the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a petition seeking additional case review.
The motion argues that Williams, whose death by lethal injection is set for Thursday night, is intellectually disabled and “categorically ineligible to be put to death.”
Thursday’s filing in the nation’s high court comes a day after the Arkansas Supreme Court denied Williams’ motion for a stay of his execution.
The inmate’s attorneys cite examinations from three independent mental health professionals of his disability status in their petition for certiorari.
Each “has opined that Mr. Williams suffers from intellectual disability as defined by ‘current medical standards,’” the document states.
During the penalty phase of Williams’ trial, a clinical and forensic psychologist concluded that the convicted murderer showed “extensive evidence of low IQ and brain dysfunction,” his attorneys’ petition states.
Williams was convicted in the October 1999 death of Cecil Boren, a farmer who was fatally shot while doing yard work at his Lincoln County farm.
The daughter of one of the men killed by condemned inmate Kenneth Williams asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to spare the murderer's life, but the governor said later he would not do so.
Williams' final victim was Michael Greenwood. Williams crashed into Greenwood's vehicle during a 1999 police chase in Missouri, ending his deadly escape from prison where he was a serving a life sentence for murder. Williams is set to be executed tonight.
In a letter to the governor, released by Williams' attorneys Thursday, Michael Greenwood's daughter, Kayla Greenwood of Ozark, Mo., said her family was unaware that Williams' execution date had been set. She wrote that she would have spoken to the Parole Board in favor of clemency if she had.
Family members of Cecil Boren, another of Williams' victims, asked the Parole Board to see Williams' sentence carried out.
"I have come to learn that [Williams] is man who counsels and helps people who may be in a dark place because they never felt love, or were victims of a horrible upbringing that caused trauma and hurt," Kayla Greenwood wrote in her letter.
In a response Thursday afternoon, Hutchinson said he had read the letter and appreciates "the genuine spirit of forgiveness and compassion demonstrated by Ms. Greenwood." But he said he would not stop the execution.
"Her letter certainly has an impact, however my responsibility is to look at the totality of the case including the view of all the victims and the interest of justice," Hutchinson wrote. "Kenneth Williams murdered multiple people, and actions have consequences."
Hutchinson noted that a jury initially showed Williams "mercy" by giving him a life sentence, but he escaped and killed again before being sentenced to death.
"These facts support the final verdict of the second jury in giving the death penalty," the governor said.
Hutchinson has not extended clemency to any of the six men who requested it ahead of their scheduled executions this month.
An Arkansas death row inmate is arguing that a double execution this week was flawed and raises concerns he could suffer an exceptionally painful death.
Kenneth Williams is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Thursday for the killing of a former deputy prison warden following an escape. Williams broke out less than three weeks into a life term for killing a college cheerleader.
If Williams is put to death, it would be the fourth execution for Arkansas since April 20. The state initially planned to execute eight men in 11 days because an execution drug expires Sunday.
During a Monday execution, Jack Jones Jr.'s mouth moved several times when he should have been unconscious. Williams' lawyers pointed to that execution in a filing Thursday with the state Supreme Court.
They say their client has medical issues that could cause problems during the execution.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Family members of a man whose death was caused by Arkansas condemned killer Kenneth Williams said they've forgiven him — and bought plane tickets so the condemned man's daughter and granddaughter could visit before his scheduled execution Thursday.
Michael Greenwood was killed in a 1999 traffic wreck with Williams, who had escaped from prison, where he was serving a life sentence for killing a cheerleader. Williams faces execution Thursday for killing another man, Cecil Boren, while on the run.
Michael Greenwood's daughter, Kayla Greenwood, told the Springfield News-Leader that she learned a few days ago that Williams has a 21-year-old daughter, Jasmine, whom he hasn't seen for 17 years and a 3-year-old granddaughter he's never met. Greenwood said her mother bought plane tickets for Williams' daughter and granddaughter to fly from Washington state to Arkansas so they could see Williams on Wednesday, a day before his execution.
"I told him we forgive him and where I stood on it," said Greenwood, who sent a message to Williams through his attorney. "When he found out that we are bringing his daughter and granddaughter to see him and that my mom and dad bought the tickets, he was crying to the attorney."
Members of Greenwood's family had urged clemency for Williams. But family members of Boren, whose killing led to Williams' death sentence, told the Arkansas Parole Board that the execution should go forward.
An Arkansas inmate's fight to avoid lethal injection is advancing on two fronts just hours before his scheduled execution.
Lawyers filed paperwork Thursday saying they want the Arkansas Supreme Court to review a decision rejecting a hearing on whether Kenneth Williams is intellectually disabled, which would make him ineligible for execution. Previously, they asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a similar question.
Williams is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Thursday for the killing of a former deputy prison warden following an escape. Williams broke out less than three weeks into a life term for killing a college cheerleader.
If Williams is put to death, it would be the fourth execution for Arkansas since April 20. The state initially planned to execute eight men in 11 days because a key execution drug expires at the end of the month.