On Monday, Arkansas put to death two prisoners, Marcel Williams and Jack Jones, the first time a state has carried out a double execution in 17 years. The two men, Marcel Williams and Jack Jones were executed for crimes of rape and murder that they committed more than two decades ago.
Their deaths marked the nation's first-double execution since 2000, when Texas put condemned inmates to death on the same night. Williams' attorneys argued that the execution appeared to be "torturous and inhumane".
"This is significant because at no point in modern American history has any state ever attempted to carry out so many executions in such a short period of time", says Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham. Courts have blocked four lethal injections, including at least one that was called off only hours before the inmate was to enter the death chamber.
States with the death penalty have struggled to obtain enough lethal injection drugs, including midazolam, as manufacturers and distributors have increasingly refused to provide supplies for capital punishment.
Both the death row inmates were served their last meals on Monday afternoon, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves told the news agency.
Williams' attorneys wrote in an earlier court filing that his "morbid obesity makes it likely that either the IV line can not be placed or that it will be placed in error, thus causing substantial damage (like a collapsed lung)". Hammer said he saw the inmate moving his lips for about 30 to 45 seconds as though he were speaking after he delivered his final words.
Lawyers for Jones argued that their client should not be put to death because diabetes, hypertension and many narcotics prescribed to him over the years would mean that "he is likely to be either not rendered unconscious and thus suffer a painful death in violation of the Eighth Amendment, or be left alive but brain damaged". The state is also due to execute Kenneth Williams Thursday. Around the time of Ericksson's murder, Williams allegedly attacked and raped three other women.
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Williams was sentenced to death for the 1994 rape and killing of Stacy Errickson, a 22-year-old he kidnapped from a gas station.
Jones said earlier this month that he was ready for execution.
"She was sexually abused in every way possible and as she was suffering he took a cord off a coffee pot and strangled her".
When those appeals reach the Supreme Court, they go first to the justice who oversees the state in which the execution is scheduled. Another man, Stacey Johnson, was supposed to be executed on the same day as Lee, but was granted a stay.
Besides the two executions yesterday evening, Arkansas put to death one other inmate last week and has a final one scheduled for Thursday. Two other drug companies, Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, filed a brief in the inmates' lawsuit arguing contracts prohibit their products from being used in executions. "There was no constitutional violation in Jones' execution".
He did not request a clemency hearing, saying in a letter, "Your wish is and always has been that I die and I could never ever deny you this".
Nine people have been executed in the United States so far this year, including Jones and Williams. Media witnesses say that his lips "grimaced" roughly four minutes after the injection, but couldn't elaborate if it had indicated any pain. "As far as we could tell, the inmate was not having any trouble throughout it. ..."