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Contrasting accounts of Arkansas execution from witnesses

Contrasting accounts of Arkansas execution from witnesses

For the first time in almost 17 years two convicted murderers were executed on the same night, on the same gurney, just three hours apart, as the state of Arkansas rushed to carry out a series of lethal injections before one of the required drugs expires.

Williams was executed at 10:33 p.m.by lethal injection on the same gurney where fellow inmate Jack Jones died at 7:20 p.m.

He had been convicted of the 1994 rape and murder of 22-year-old Stacy Errickson, whom he had kidnapped at an Arkansas gas station.

This is the first time a state has scheduled multiple executions in a rush to kill as many inmates as it could before drugs expired. Williams' attorneys claimed that Jones was "moving his lips and gulping for air", convincing the federal judge to stay their client's execution. A judge temporarily blocked Williams' execution, but lifted the stay an hour later.

Williams' attorneys said in an emergency filing late Monday that it took 45 minutes for prison staff to place an IV into Jones, possibly because of his overweight frame.

In a final flurry of challenges, his lawyers first argued that Williams's extreme obesity - he weighed 400 pounds (180 kilograms) - would make it hard to find a vein for a lethal injection. However, within a week the state is behind schedule and in a scramble, having only one execution completed, three more scheduled and four that are on hold as inmates exhaust their final appeals.

But in court documents filed earlier this month, Wendy Kelley, director of the Arkansas Department of Correction, said having multiple executions on one night is better than setting separate dates "because the stress is more associated with an execution night than with a specific number of executions".

Both men were served last meals on Monday afternoon, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said.

Williams' attorneys wrote in an earlier court filing that his "morbid obesity makes it likely that either the IV line can not be placed or that it will be placed in error, thus causing substantial damage (like a collapsed lung)". In Jones' last words he said, "I can't believe I did something to her". He used a wheelchair and he had a leg amputated in prison because of diabetes.

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Jones also issued a written statement before he died, expressing remorse for his crime and saying he tried to reform himself while behind bars, KARK-TV reported.

Attorneys echoed those concerns after Monday night's double execution. Around the time of Ericksson's murder, Williams allegedly attacked and raped three other women.

Williams argued that he would likely experience severe pain during the execution because of his medical conditions, and that the lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

KAUFFMAN: Jones was convicted in the 1995 rape and murder of Mary Phillips.

"She was sexually abused in every way possible and as she was suffering he took a cord off a coffee pot and strangled her".

Arkansas had planned eight executions in 10 days before a drug used to sedate the inmates expires. Before his execution, Jones apologized to the daughter of the woman he brutally murdered.

Lee's execution followed a flurry of court rulings Thursday, capped by the US Supreme Court's denial of multiple requests for stays of execution. Arkansas is set to execute one more inmate, Kenneth D. Williams, on Thursday. One of the victims, Dina Windle, appeared at Williams' clemency hearing last week pleading for the state to spare his life.

The last USA state to execute two convicts in one night was Texas in August 2000.

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