Arkansas Executions 2017

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Updated at 6:45 p.m.  

Kenneth Williams, who is set to be executed Thursday at 7 p.m. killed four people in separate incidents. But relatives of the victims are mixed about whether his execution should be carried out. Loved ones for the man whose case led to the death sentence are supporting the lethal injection, but relatives of another victim say the execution would only cause more pain.

Kenneth Williams
Arkansas Department of Correction

A prison spokesman says an Arkansas inmate scheduled to be the fourth executed in a week opted to receive communion instead of a traditional last meal. Kenneth Williams is scheduled for execution at 7 p.m. Thursday unless a court steps in.

Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves says that Williams received communion from his spiritual adviser. Williams was also served a regular prison meal that included fried chicken, beans, rice, corn, tomatoes, cinnamon rolls, two cookies, four slices of bread and punch.


Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has made pushing international trade a hallmark of his first term, received a letter from the European Union Ambassador to the U.S. calling for the state to stop executions. The letter was published Wednesday afternoon by the EU. The governor's office has not said whether it plans to reply.

The execution of death row inmate Kenneth Williams is only hours away, scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight. Attorneys for Williams have started to court action.

The filing in Pulaski County Circuit Court asserts medical conditions, including: sickle cell, lupus, and organic brain damage could cause complications and lead to severe pain and suffering.

From NPR's 1A program aired Wednesday:

Arkansas is racing to execute death row inmates before its supply of lethal drugs expires. The nationwide drug shortage has effectively put the U.S. death penalty on life support and sent many states in search of workarounds to complete executions. How much longer can the death penalty survive? Has the time come for the country to come to a consensus on capital punishment?

The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected an inmate's requests to block his execution, scheduled for Thursday night.

The state's high court rejected the requests Wednesday for Kenneth Williams.

Williams had asked for a stay of execution over claims about what evidence jurors considered when he was sentenced to death.

An Arkansas judge who blocked the state's executions the same day he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration is asking two state panels to investigate the attorney general's office and the state Supreme Court for his removal from considering any capital punishment cases.

Solomon Graves Department of Correction
Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas has a practice of cutting off witness access to an audio feed in the state’s death chamber after the soon to be executed inmate’s opportunity to give last words. After lethal injection drugs are administered witnesses have to rely only on sight to evaluate an execution. The state is the sole audial observer once the execution begins.

Arkansas executed two men in one night this week, and there is a dispute about how it went. Attorneys for the first man executed Monday, Jack Jones, say he gasped for air as he died. Media witnesses say they simply saw Jones’ lips moving. None of the execution witnesses were allowed to hear Jones’ sounds.

Andrew DeMillo, an Associated Press reporter who witnessed Jones’ execution, reported back to other journalists at the prison that Jones’ lips had moved during the lethal injection process.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Arkansas Department of Correction

The nation's first double execution in 16 years is raising a new issue involving transparency and the death penalty: Should witnesses be allowed to hear what goes on in the death chamber?

A lawyer who watched Monday's executions in Arkansas says he saw an inmate open his mouth several times when it should have been still. That prompted another lawyer to claim in a court filing that Jack Jones was gulping for air after receiving a sedative, the first component of a lethal injection.

Other witnesses did not see it that way. An open microphone could have settled the question.