Arkansas executes 4th inmate in 8 days, reports of execution 'horrifying'

A US district judge has ordered post-mortem exams on the body of an executed inmate who died in agony

The fourth death row inmate to be executed in Arkansas in the last eight days convulsed in the minutes before his death resulting in the man's lawyers to ask for an investigation, which the governor rejected, reports Fox News.

Williams had been serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old student and cheerleader Dominique Hurd when he escaped the penitentiary on October 3, 1999 by hiding in a tank used to carry kitchen scraps.

During his escape, Williams killed a nearby resident, Cecil Boren, who happened to be a former assistant warden in the prison system.

All of the Arkansas inmates - including Williams - died within 20 minutes, a contrast from troubled midazolam-related executions in other states that took from 43 minutes to two hours.

"When he found out that we are bringing his daughter and granddaughter to see him and that my mom and dad bought the tickets, he was crying to the attorney", Greenwood said. His final words were, "The words that I speak will forever be, will forever." before he fell silent.

"I was more than wrong".

In his final statement from the death chamber, Williams said, "I extend my sincerest of apologies to the families I have senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones". He described the breathing as "a clear attempt to draw oxygen" and said the prisoner attempted to draw breath until 10:59 p.m. "You don't call for an independent investigation unless there's some reason for it".

Kenneth Williams, a 38-year-old convicted multiple murderer, was the last of four inmates put to death over the space of a week - the first such executions by the conservative southern state since 2005.

He pushed violently against his leather chest restraint, witnesses claimed.

A spokesperson for Arkansas' governor says repeated movements by an inmate executed by the state on Thursday night were an "involuntary muscular reaction" to one of the drugs used. Kenneth Williams, bottom row, third from the left, is slated to be executed Thursday.

With Arkansas' supply of lethal injection drugs expiring soon, the future of capital punishment in the state is unclear. It executed four prisoners, while four others received court stays.

Arkansas is one of many states that now facing logistical or practical difficulties related to the procurement of lethal injection drugs, which pharmaceutical companies have increasingly refused to supply, in recent years, for ethical reasons.

If states can't get supplies of the three drugs needed for the lethal injection cocktail now used, authorities may have to switch to a one-drug lethal injection and use drugs such as sodium thiopental and pentobarbital.

One of Williams' attorneys, Shawn Nolan, requested a full investigation into the "problematic execution", saying the accounts of it were "horrifying". Arkansas wanted to get through the executions before one of the drugs involved in the process, midazolam, reached its expiration date on Sunday.

Williams' execution, which had been scheduled for 7 p.m., was on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed legal challenges. Inasmuch as ADC, or anyone acting on behalf of ADC, has no control of the body or the biological material Plaintiffs seek to collect and preserve, this Court lacks jurisdiction to grant the relief Plaintiffs seek in the motion.

However, media representatives who witnessed Williams death offered a slightly different version of Williams' death, specifically the brief period of convulsions. They had committed murders in the 1990s.

He's the last of eight inmates originally scheduled to die by lethal injection in an 11-day span in April.

Midazolam is supposed to render inmates unconscious but critics say it has failed in some cases, leaving them to feel the effects of a paralytic that halts breathing and another drug that stops the heart while causing an excruciating burning sensation.

A lethal injection expert and law professor says Arkansas' explanation for an inmate who appeared to convulse during a lethal injection doesn't make sense. Because of this, prisons have had a hard time obtaining midazolam, with drug manufacturers refusing to supply it.

McKesson alleges Arkansas used deceitful tactics to buy a replacement batch when one of the drugs expired.

"There became this heavy breathing, it was nearly as though he was gasping for air and his chest was moving up and down, up and down and at one point very, very rapidly", said witness Donna Terrell.

Witnesses watched the entire execution, and Wood could often be heard snorting throughout, even when the microphone was off.

But there was no expression on Williams' face.

It's the central question of the current US death penalty debate, highlighted by the latest execution involving a disputed sedative that appeared to involve discomfort to the inmate.