Arkansas plans to end its series of April executions by putting to death on Thursday an inmate convicted of murdering a cheerleader and who escaped from prison and killed two other people before being captured again.
Arkansas, which had not held an execution in 12 years until this month, has put three inmates to death since April 20. It plans to execute Kenneth Williams, 38, by lethal injection at 7 p.m. CDT at its death chamber in its Cummins Unit prison.
Arkansas originally had planned to execute eight inmates in 11 days in April, the most of any state in as short a period since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Four of the executions were put on hold by courts due to mental competency issues for two inmates, to consider a clemency recommendation by a state board for another, and for DNA testing for one inmate who has maintained his innocence.
The unprecedented schedule, set because one of the drugs in the state’s execution mix expires at the end of April, prompted criticism that Arkansas was acting recklessly. It also set off a series of legal filings that raised questions about U.S. death chamber protocols, troubled prosecutions and difficulties in obtaining lethal injection drugs.
Williams was transferred to the Cummins Unit on Wednesday, the same day the Arkansas Supreme Court denied a request from his lawyers to halt the execution.
They argued there were problems with jury proceedings, that Williams is intellectually disabled and should be spared, and that he was convicted of capital murder without a unanimous verdict on the charge that made him eligible for the death penalty.
“We’ve been waiting a long, long time for this,” Genie Boren, the widow of one of the murder victims, was quoted as saying by local TV broadcaster Fox 16.
Williams, sentenced to life without parole for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old college cheerleader Dominique Hurd, broke out of a maximum-security prison in 1999.
He murdered Cecil Boren, 57 at his farmhouse, shooting him multiple times. Williams then stole Boren’s pickup truck and fled to Missouri, where he slammed his vehicle into one driven by delivery man Michael Greenwood, 24, killing him.
In 2005, Williams sent a letter to a local Arkansas paper where he confessed to killing Jerrell Jenkins on the same day as the cheerleader.
Williams was sentenced to death for Boren’s murder.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Steve Barnes in Little Rock; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)