May 28, 2017

Off-Campus Beat: The Arkansas Executions

Photo courtesy of motherjones.com

by Meaghan Dodson ’17

News Co-Editor

Best used by: April 30, 2017. Or so it probably says on the back of Arkansas’ supply of lethal injection drugs. 

Arkansas became the first state in 17 years to perform back-to-back executions this past Monday night. The drugs are set to expire by the end of the month and, thus, the state is attempting to execute eight death row inmates over the span of 11 days.

The “Death Cocktail.” What’s in it?

The lethal injection formula is a combination of three drugs. Midazolam sedates the inmate, vecuronium bromide paralyzes and stops his breathing, and potassium chloride stops his heaxrt.

Midazolam is the most controversial ingredient as it has not been approved by the FDA as a stand-alone anesthetic.

The cocktail is administered via multiple IVs.  In many states, only one of the IVs will give the inmate the drugs while the other three are “dummy” cocktails so the prison staff do not know who precisely administers the drugs.

Execution #1

In 1996, Jack Harold Jones was convicted of raping and murdering one of his co-workers as her daughter looked on. He then beat and strangled the daughter with a coffee pot cord, leaving her for dead.

“The victim’s family has waited patiently for justice during this time. The jury sentenced Jack Jones to death, and his sentence was upheld by judges and reviewed thoroughly in courts of appeals at each level,” stated Governor Asa Hutchinson.

According to witnesses, in his final statement Jones specifically addressed and apologized to the daughter.

Jones was administered the lethal injection at 7:06 p.m. and was declared dead by 7:20 p.m. The process was held up for 45 minutes, however, as staff members were unable to place a line in Jones’ neck.

Execution #2

Less than three hours after Jones was pronounced dead, Marcel Wayne Williams received his sentence. He was administered the drugs at 10:16 p.m. and was declared dead at 10:33 p.m.

Williams was convicted of robbing, kidnapping, raping, and murdering a woman in 1994. The victim’s mother expressed relief at news that Williams’ sentence was finally being carried out, stating, “It’ll give me peace that he’s gone and can’t ever get out and do this again, because he will.”

Williams’ lawyer attempted to stay the execution as Williams’ medical issues could possibly result in his feeling severe pain. KARK 4 Nes Reporter Jesi Turnure, however, who attended the execution, stated that she did not witness anything akin to cruel and unusual punishment. “Once it did happen, once it started, it was not horrible to watch, to be fair. It didn’t look like he was struggling that much…but on the inside you don’t know how they are feeling.”

What Comes Next?

Debates about the death penalty rage on as 31 states currently have the death penalty on their books.

April 24 was a “shameful day,” according to Amnesty International, as the state of Arkansas treated human lives “as though they have a sell-by date.”

At the same time, however, the daughter of Jones’ victim breathed a sigh of relief after the events, stating, “I’m glad that chapter is closed.”

Four of Arkansas’ eight proposed executions have occurred, with the most recent one taking place on Thursday, April 27.  The remaining four prisoners are going through the final appeals process and, as such, their cases are currently on hold.

With only a few days remaining in April, Arkansas is hard-pressed to meet its sell-by date.

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