Thursday 26 April 2018

Killer to be put to death as Arkansas concludes execution effort

Convicted murderer Kenneth Williams, 38, is scheduled to be put to death on Thursday (Kelly P Kissel/AP)
Convicted murderer Kenneth Williams, 38, is scheduled to be put to death on Thursday (Kelly P Kissel/AP)

An aggressive effort to execute condemned inmates in Arkansas is set to conclude 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.

He 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 on Thursday night in the same prison from where he escaped in 1999.

Arkansas conducted a double execution on 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's mouth moved several times when he should have been unconscious. Jones's spiritual adviser described it as "a sort of gurgling", while an observer from the state attorney general's office said it was "snoring; deep, deep sleep".

US District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary stay for inmate Marcel Williams but lifted it one minute after a conference call with lawyers concluded. 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," Ms Baker said near the end of the hearing.

Governor Asa Hutchinson had set a series of double executions with the hope that eight death row inmates would die by lethal injection before the state's supply of lethal injection drug midazolam expires on Sunday.

Four inmates received stays, including one of the two initially set for execution on Thursday. The state has said it has no new supplier for execution drugs.

Kenneth Williams, who had his stay request rejected on Wednesday, escaped from the Cummins Unit less than three weeks into a life term for killing 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 barrel of hog slop being ferried from the prison kitchen to a feeding bay, then sneaked along a tree line until reaching Mr Boren's house.

He killed Mr Boren, stole guns and his 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 Mr Boren's death, investigators said it did not appear he was targeted because of his former employment by the Arkansas Department of Correction.


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