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Religious Tolerance logo


2017-APR: Arkansas executes
two more inmates on death row.

Part 3

syringe used to kill

Syringe similar to those used to kill by injection 1

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This topic is continued here from the previous essay.

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2017-APR-21: The State of Arkansas executed Lendell Lee:

Lee, 51, had been sentenced to die more than 20 years previously for beating Debra Reese to death with a tire iron. He was finally executed just before midnight in the Cummins Unit, a prison in southern Arkansas. He was the first inmate to be executed in the state since 2005. He had always maintained his innocence. He had unsuccessfully appealed to the courts for a stay so that evidence in the murder could be analyzed for DNA traces that might prove that he did not commit the crime.

He refused a final meal and asked for holy communion instead. He did not give a final statement. The first drug was injected at 11:44 PM; he was declared dead at 11:56. An Associated Press reporter, Sean Murphy, was present at the execution as a witness. He noted that Lee was not visibly uncomfortable during the execution process.

Amnesty International issued a statement, saying:

"“Today is a shameful day for Arkansas, which is callously rushing the judicial process by treating human beings as though they have a sell-by date. While other states have increasingly come to the conclusion that the capital punishment system is beyond repair, Arkansas is running in the opposite direction from progress. This assembly line of executions must stop, and this cruel and inhuman punishment should be ended once and for all." 2

In contrast, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) issued a statement saying:

"Tonight, the lawful sentence of a jury which has been upheld by the courts through decades of challenges has been carried out. The family of the late Debra Reese, who was brutally murdered with a tire thumper after being targeted because she was home alone, has waited more than 24 years to see justice done. I pray this lawful execution helps bring closure for the Reese family." 2

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The American Medical Association (A.M.A.) and the death penalty:

Cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times on APR-21. He noted that the A.M.A. ethically objects to the participation by physicians during executions. They regard that for a doctor to select a site on the victim's body for injection, initiate an intravenous injection, and/or to administer lethal drugs violates their oath to heal or at least do no harm. However, Jauhar believes that the presence of a physician is important. He wrote:

"Barring doctors from executions will only increase the risk that prisoners will unduly suffer. ... perhaps the best protection against a botched execution is to have a doctor trained in anesthesia or palliative care be present when things go awry. ..."

"I recognize the moral quandary that the situation presents for doctors whose hope is that killing by the state will end. But as Arkansas has shown, states will go to great lengths to execute criminals, even at the risk of causing undue suffering.

Doctors can act as a safeguard against this brutality. Participating in executions does not make the doctor the executioner, just as providing comfort care to a terminally ill patient does not make the doctor the bearer of the disease." 3

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Two more executions were performed on Monday evening, 2017-APR-24:

Inmates Jack Jones and Marcel Williams had both claimed that the sedative drug Midazolam would not work properly on them because of their obesity.

Midazolam

They felt that this might lessen the effect of the drug and result in them being partly conscious during the rest of the execution process. That might expose them to considerable pain that could meet the criteria for being considered cruel and unusual punishment. Such treatment is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Both inmates had applied for preliminary injunctions at their federal district court. On APR-21, District Judge Kristine Baker denied their requests on the basis of lack of evidence. 4

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said:

"We are working to ensure that those sentences are carried out and that justice is served." 5

Jack Jones, 52, was executed on APR-24, using the standard three-drug combination. The procedure started shortly after 7 PM local time. He was pronounced dead at 7:20. It appears to have been a normal execution.

A reporter who was observing the execution noted that Jones' lips were moving after the sedative was administered. A spokesperson for the Department of Correction said that Jones was thanking Wendy Kelley, the department director, for her kind treatment of him.

The attorneys for Marcel Williams, 46, filed an emergency request with a federal judge to stay his execution. They noted that Jones "was moving his lips and gulping for air" briefly after the sedative was given. Williams did receive a brief stay, but was executed shortly thereafter. He was pronounced dead at 10:33 PM.

Kenneth Williams has been scheduled for execution on APR-27. 6 The other four inmates' executions had been blocked by the courts because of concern that the injections used might expose the inmates to cruel or unusual punishment.

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Video from Reuters: Arkansas becomes the first U.S. state in 17 years to execute two people in the same day:

  7

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Kenneth Williams was executed during the Thursday evening, 2017-APR-27:

Kenneth Williams was the fourth inmate in a week to be executed the Cummins Unit in Arkansas.

During 1999, he had been initially given a sentence of life imprisonment for murdering a woman. He had later escaped from jail but was recaptured after he had shot and killed a truck driver. He had also caused a car accident during a police chase that had resulted in the death of a second man. In 1999 he was sentenced to death.

He had issued a statement to the families of his victims. He wrote in part:

"I was more than wrong. The crimes I perpetrated against you all was [sic] senseless, extremely hurtful and inexcusable. I humbly beg your forgiveness and pray you find the peace, healing and closure you all deserve."

After Williams was given the injection of Midazolam, witnesses from the media reported that he was : "coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking" for 10 to 20 seconds.

Kelly Kissel, a reporter for Associated Press who had witnessed ten previous executions including Williams' said:

"This is the most I've seen an inmate move three or four minutes in."

He said that Williams had "lurched" 15 times in quick succession, followed by five slower lurches, with the first about three minutes after the sedative Midazolam was injected.

Williams' attorney, Shawn Nolan, called the descriptions "horrifying." He said:

"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. ... What's important right now is that all the information about tonight's execution must be meticulously documented and preserved so that we can discover exactly what happened in that execution chamber."

J.R. Davis, spokesman for Arkansas Governor. Asa Hutchinson (R), described the lurches as "involuntary muscular reaction to the Midazolam." He did not witness the execution, but concluded that William's reactions did not mean that the procedure had been painful.

Nolan described Davis' comments as:

"... trying to whitewash the reality of what happened."

Nolan issued a statement saying:

"We tried over and over again to get the state to comport with their own protocol to avoid torturing our client to death, and yet reports from the execution witnesses indicate that Mr. Williams suffered during this execution."

Jodie Efird, one of the daughters of William's victims, attended the execution. She said:

"Any amount of movement he might've had was far less than any of his victims." 8

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Related essays on this web site that you might find interesting:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Peter Hermes Furian, image downloaded from Dreamstime.com at https://www.dreamstime.com/
  2. Alan Blinder & Manny Fernandez, "Arkansas Puts Ledell Lee to Death, in Its First Execution Since 2005," New York Times, 2017-APR-21, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
  3. Sandeep Jauhar, "Why It’s O.K. for Doctors to Participate in Executions," New York Times, 2017-APR-21 at: https://www.nytimes.com/
  4. Ellen Lampe, "Death Row Inmates Jones, Williams Denied Motions for Preliminary Injunctions," Arkansas Matters, 2017-APR-21, at: http://www.arkansasmatters.com/
  5. "Arkansas events show risk of ambitious execution schedule," Jackson Hole News & Guide, 2017-APR-22, at: http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/
  6. P. Kenneth Burns, "Arkansas Rush: Why the State Wants to Execute So Quickly," Afro, 2017-APR-22, at: https://www.afro.com/
  7. Andrew Demillo & Kelly Kissel, "Two men executed in Arkansas on same gurney, hours apart," The Toronto Star, 2017-APR-25, at: https://www.thestar.com/
  8. "Arkansas execution of Kenneth Williams 'horrifying': lawyer," AOL, 2017-APR-28, at: https://www.aol.com/


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Copyright © 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted on: 2017-APR-29
Author:
B.A. Robinson
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