Judge orders blood and tissue samples from botched Arkansas execution body for autopsy

Fiona Keating
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District Judge Kristine Baker has requested a post-mortem on Kenneth Williams, who was killed by lethal injection in Arkansas earlier this week, in an allegedly botched execution

Baker ordered the preservation of blood and tissue samples from the 38-year-old. Her decision came after lawyers for Jason McGhee, a death-row inmate who had also been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection, filed an emergency order.

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The legal teams for death-row prisoners are also calling for an independent investigation into all four executions involving the drug midazolam that have taken place in Arkansas over the past 10 days.

Scott Braden, who represents Marcel Williams and several other death row prisoners made a statement.

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"Multiple media witnesses who saw last night's execution of Kenneth Williams refute the state's version of events. Media witnesses say that Mr Williams lurched forward as many as 20 times, was observed coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking, with sound, and more during the execution, including making sounds that were audible in an adjacent room, even after his microphone was turned off – none of this should have happened.

"It is even more disturbing to read witness accounts that Mr Williams was still moving at the time of the consciousness check, because subsequent administration of the paralytic would hide any conscious suffering he experienced. If this occurred, it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment and the state's own execution protocol since it means Mr Williams likely experienced the tortuous and painful effects of the second and the third drug."

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"The execution of Kenneth Williams is consistent with what we observed during the execution of our client, Marcel Williams, on Monday. Marcel Williams was moving up until three minutes before he was declared dead. It was never clear to us that he was unconscious. We are gravely concerned regarding the lack of transparency in the execution process and the inability for witnesses to discern when the second and third drugs are being administered.

"Once the paralytic has been administered to the prisoner, it is impossible to know what the prisoner is experiencing. If the midazolam fails to keep the prisoner under anesthesia, the prisoner would be awake and aware but unable to move or speak or even open his eyes, so he would then look completely serene despite being in agony. We believe that our client, Marcel Williams, also may have experienced unconstitutional pain during his execution on Monday. By all reports Kenneth Williams exhibited the most movement during his execution, however, because the inmates are paralyzed, we cannot know that Marcel Williams, Jack Jones, and Ledell Lee were not also consciously suffocating."

Kenneth Williams made a statement before he was killed, apologising to all his victims' families. He added: "I am not the same person I was. I have been transformed. Some things can't be undone. I seek forgiveness." Then he began speaking in tongues.

Williams' lawyers argued that he has been examined by several mental health experts who have all found him to be intellectually disabled.

Governor Asa Hutchinson rejected calls for an independent investigation into the state's lethal injection protocol, stating: "I think it's totally unjustified."

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