2 Inmates Executed In Arkansas, First U.S. Double Execution Since 2000

Apr 25, 2017
Originally published on April 25, 2017 7:06 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The first double execution in the United States in nearly 17 years happened last night in the state of Arkansas. Last-minute appeals failed to stop the state's third execution in five days. Jacob Kauffman with member station KUAR reports.

JACOB KAUFFMAN, BYLINE: The state of Arkansas first put to death convicted murderer Jack Jones, a man who said that he wanted to die. Department of Corrections spokesman Solomon Graves delivered the news from the state's death chamber.

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SOLOMON GRAVES: A lethal injection was administered at 7:06 p.m. And the coroner has pronounced Jack Harold Jones dead at 7:20 p.m. this 24th day of April.

KAUFFMAN: Jones was convicted in the 1995 rape and murder of Mary Phillips. For her father, James, this day was a long time coming.

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JAMES PHILLIPS: I hope the state of Arkansas and the government and the court system learns from this. It don't take 22 years to get something done. Get it done right and people don't have to live like this or think about this for 20-something years.

KAUFFMAN: In Jones's last words, as read by spokesman Graves, he sought acceptance from his victim's grown daughter Lacey, then 11, whom he also tried to kill.

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GRAVES: (Reading) I hope over time you could learn who I really am and I am not a monster. There was a reason why those things happened that day. I'm so sorry, Lacey. Try to understand I love you like my child.

KAUFFMAN: Lacey Phillips, now Lacey Seal, wanted none of it.

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LACEY SEAL: I don't want to talk about that.

KAUFFMAN: Before this month, Arkansas hadn't put an inmate to death in nearly 12 years. The state originally wanted to execute eight men in 11 days. Court action narrowed the list to three men executed so far, with another man slated to die on Thursday. J.R. Davis, the spokesman for Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, had praise for the Department of Correction, or ADC.

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J R DAVIS: As far as both executions, I used the word flawlessly earlier. It's the truth. ADC staff - the governor could not be more pleased with director Kelly and the staff here at ADC being able to carry out this responsibility they've been tasked with.

KAUFFMAN: But attorneys for Marcel Williams, the second inmate scheduled to die, argued otherwise. Minutes before his execution, a brief stay was granted so attorneys could argue the first execution did not go as planned. Spokesman Graves.

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GRAVES: Marcel had been brought into the chamber. And he was on the gurney. While the stay was issued, he asked to use the restroom and he was allowed up.

KAUFFMAN: Attorneys for Williams said prison personnel in the first execution tried unsuccessfully for 45 minutes to place an IV in Jones's neck, ultimately placing it elsewhere. The rejected appeal also said Jones gulped for air. That was not corroborated by Andrew DeMillo with the Associated Press or two other media witnesses. He reported Jones's lips moved though in the early minutes after the first injection.

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ANDREW DEMILLO: It was after a microphone was off so we don't know if he was saying something but there was moving for about 2 minutes.

KAUFFMAN: The U.S. district judge lifted the stay and Marcel Williams' execution went forward. He died at 10:33, 17 minutes after the execution began. The fourth man, Kenneth Dewayne Williams, is slated to die Thursday. He's the last before the state's lethal injection drug supply expires at the end of the month. Opponents of the death penalty pledge to keep the flame alight at vigils at the governor's mansion.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Shine for Marcel Williams.

KAUFFMAN: For NPR News, I'm Jacob Kauffman in Little Rock.

(SOUNDBITE OF I HEAR SIRENS' "PALE MOON, GUIDE US ASHORE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.