LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' aggressive effort to execute condemned inmates is set to conclude Thursday after the state Supreme Court refused to stay the execution of a man who killed a former deputy prison warden following an escape.
Kenneth Williams, 38, was sentenced to death for killing Cecil Boren after escaping from the Cummins Unit prison in a barrel of hog slop. Williams was initially serving a life term for killing a university cheerleader whose family he taunted when jurors spared his life.
Unless a court intervenes, Williams will die in the same prison from where he escaped in 1999.
Arkansas conducted a double execution Monday night, the nation's first since 2000. The second execution was delayed while lawyers argued over whether there were problems with the first one.
Jeff Rosenzweig, a lawyer for death row inmates, told a federal judge that Jack Jones' mouth moved several times when he should have been unconscious. Jones' spiritual advisor described it as "a sort of gurgling." An observer from the state attorney general's office said it was "snoring; deep, deep sleep."
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary stay for inmate Marcel Williams but lifted it one minute after a conference call with lawyers concluded. Marcel Williams was dead 71 minutes later.
"Based upon what the court has learned from the eyewitnesses in regard to the execution, the court finds no support for a claim and an allegation that the execution appeared to be torturous and inhumane," Baker said near the end of the hearing.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson had set a series of double executions with the hope that eight death row inmates would die by lethal injection before Arkansas' supply of lethal injection drug midazolam expires Sunday. Four inmates received stays, including one of the two initially set for execution Thursday. The state has said it has no new supplier for execution drugs.
Kenneth Williams, who had his stay request rejected Wednesday, escaped from the Cummins Unit less than three weeks into a life term for killing University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff cheerleader Dominique Hurd in 1998. At the conclusion of that trial, he taunted the young woman's family by turning to them after the sentence was announced and saying "You thought I was going to die, didn't you?"
He hid in a 500-gallon barrel of hog slop being ferried from the prison kitchen to a feeding bay, then sneaked along a tree line until reaching Boren's house. He killed Boren, stole guns and Boren's truck and then drove away to Missouri. There, he crashed into a water-delivery truck, killing the driver. While in prison, he confessed to killing another person in 1998.
At the time of Boren's death, investigators said it did not appear Boren was targeted because of his former employment by the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Arkansas had scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period before the end of April. Jason McGehee had been scheduled to die Thursday night, but a federal judge said he was entitled to a 30-day comment period after the state Parole Board recommended clemency. The state elected not to appeal.
The eight executions would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Conducting four in eight days matches a pace set in Arkansas in 1960. The state also conducted quadruple executions in 1926 and 1930.
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