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Friday, April 28, 2017

There are no "botched" capital punishment executions

(Photo: Ark. prison photo)
Varner, Arkansas -- Kenneth Williams was initially sentenced to life in prison for killing 10-year-old Dominique Hurd, a cheerleader at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. 

Dominique (aka "Nicki") was described by her college coach and friend, Karen Blunt. She said, "Dominique was very, very smart . . . intelligent and full of life. Her soul was beautiful."

Nicki was studying to become a physician.

Court documents explain that Kenneth Williams, 19, kidnapped Hurd and a male friend at gunpoint. He drove them to several ATMs to get money and shot them both, emptying his gun, and drove away in a stolen car. This all came after he made the friend pull down Nicki's underwear and photograph her before he shot them.

The friend survived but Nicki died at the hospital.


Dominique Hurd
He was found guilty and sent to Cummins prison. But at the conclusion of that trial, he taunted the Hurd family by turning to them after the sentence was announced and saying "You thought I was going to die, didn't you?"

While serving time for Hurd's murder, Williams escaped from the prison in October 1999 in a 500 gallon barrel of hog slop. 

He walked two miles down the road and broke into the home of Cecil Boren. He confiscated Boren's guns and shot him six times before stealing his vehicle. 

Then he drove to Missouri but crashed into another vehicle as he was being chased by police. The wreck killed the other driver, Michael Greenwood.

In 2000, he was sentenced to death.

Numerous appeals had been filed by Williams' attorneys, including the claim that he is "intellectually disabled" and thus is ineligible for execution. They filed a final appeal Thursday claiming his medical conditions such as his sickle cell trait and lupus, puts him at risk for severe suffering during the execution.

He even became a Christian in prison and is sorry he shot all those people and killed a man with a stolen car. 

Unfortunately for Williams, his attorneys didn't have expertise in medicine nor psychiatry and thus couldn't prove that he would suffer as he made others suffer in fear as he murdered them in cold blood.

In a final attempt to save his life, he wrote to Arkansas reporter Deborah Robinson saying that he is sorry.

"To the families of my victims, to whom I have brought pain, great loss, and suffering, as shallow as 'I am sorry for robbing you of your loved one' can sound, I would rather say it, and mean it, than not say it at all," Williams wrote, not sounding very mentally challenged as his attorneys once claimed.

He asked for clemency so he could demonstrate to the parole board "I was no longer the person I once was. God has transformed me, and even the worst of us can be reformed and renewed."

Along with Williams, seven other Death Row inmates fought against their executions like their victims fought for their lives before they were killed by them. The grounds for a stay of execution was that the sedative used by Arkansas--midazolam, a drug to render them unconscious in botched executions in other states--didn't reliably prevent a painful death. 

In other words, the execution may have caused them pain because they couldn't peacefully go unconscious before their lives ended. Kind of what happened to 19-year-old Dominique Hurd when she was shot repeatedly as she lied awake as bullets pierced her flesh and entered vital organs.

The Arkansas Supreme Court denied the claim.

Lethal injection historically required a 3-drug cocktail: first was sodium thiopental, aka pentobarbital, to put the killer to sleep; then pancuronium bromide to bring on paralysis; and finally, potassium chloride to stop the heart. 

When Williams was given a lethal injection (after the injection site was swabbed with alcohol to prevent infection) on Thursday, he began lurching and convulsing before he died. This prompted calls for investigations and renewed exploration of Arkansas' effort to do a wholesale execution of eight killers before the drug expired at the end of the month.

Williams became the fourth convicted killer in eight days to get what he gave to others.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution said that about 3 minutes after the injection was given, Williams' body rapidly jerked 15 times, lurching violently against the restraint across his chest. Then the rate of jerking slowed to a final five.

J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson (who didn't witness the execution, said the movements were "an involuntary muscular reaction" that is a widely known effect of midazolam, the first of the three drugs given.

Williams' lawyers, who themselves and whose own friends and families were not affected by the Williams' murders called witness accounts "horrifying" and demanding an investigation into what they termed the "problematic execution."

The ACLU of Arkansas called for a review, saying the state may have violated the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Blowing up a person, as Kim Jong Un had ordered, with an anti-aircraft gun is unusual, but it's probably quick and therefore not cruel. 

Beheading someone with a knife or sword is cruel, but unfortunately, it is not longer unusual.

But causing lurching and convulsions resulting from a tranquilizer injection just prior to death doesn't seem so terribly cruel to the victim as much as it does to the witnesses. 

Funny how people call upon the US Constitution when it suits their needs, but when it doesn't, they say it's irrelevant.

On Friday morning Republican Sen. Trent Garner, who witnessed the execution, tweeted that Williams did not "seem in pain . . . It was not cruel, unusual, botched or torture."

"Any amount of movement he might have had was far less than any of his victims," said Jodie Efird, one of Boren's daughters, who witnessed the execution.

State officials called the string of executions a huge success giving "closure" to victim's families.

All of the Arkansas inmates died within 20 minutes of their executions outset. In other states where midazolam was used, some executions took anywhere from 43 minutes to two hours.

Why not just give them something like ether to put them under before putting them out?

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