26 Apr 2017

Arkansas carries out back-to-back executions

From Morning Report, 6:43 am on 26 April 2017

Two prisoners on death row in the US have been executed after their last minute appeals were rejected by the Supreme Court.

Jack Jones, left, and Marcel Williams, have been executed by lethal injection.

Jack Jones, left, and Marcel Williams, have been executed by lethal injection. Photo: Arkansas Department of Correction

Convicted murderers Jack Jones, 52, and Marcel Williams, 46, received lethal injections on the same gurney within hours of each other on Monday night (US time).

It was the first double execution in the country on the same day in 17 years.

The men were put to death as part of a race against the clock by authorities in Arkansas to put an unprecedented eight inmates to death in just 11 days this month before a lethal injection drug expires.

Jones and Williams had both been on death row for more than 20 years.

Jessi Turnure, a journalist in Arkansas, witnessed Marcel Williams' execution and describes the experience as "surreal".

"It was almost kind of surgical, very methodical. He was strapped down on a gurney and he had two IVs in his right arm, and he had a chest strap on and a head strap, and so he was just looking straight up at the ceiling.

"He had no last words, which I think made it a little easier for me."

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Photo: 123rf

She says Williams appeared to fall asleep as they began slowly administering the drugs and he did not appear to suffer from any "cruel or unusual punishment".

"His chest did move up and down very quickly for a couple of minutes. But, they were saying that could also be due to the fact that he weighed 400 pounds (181 kilograms) and he was diabetic along with other medical problems."

Jessi Turnure also spoke about her role as a media witness to the execution and says she tried to stay as unbiased as possible.

"I had to make sure that this man received the justice that the State said that he deserved."

"Going into it I was trying to think about his victims families as well as him and about how this might give closure to people.

But, at the same time, I was able to speak to one of his other victims who he kidnapped and raped and she said this does not give her closure and that forgiving him a couple of years ago was the closure that she needed."

Jessi Turnure says the public reaction to the executions has been very split.

"There's been protestors on both sides. Of course, a lot of people are fighting for these inmates lives... But then, at the same time, you're hearing from these victims families and people who are supporting them, saying that they've waited 20-plus years for justice."

She says another inmate still has a scheduled date for his execution although petitions have been put forward to stop it and the governor is expected to start scheduling more execution dates soon.