The Slatest

Arkansas Executed Four Convicts in Eight Days to Beat the Expiration Date on Its Death Drugs

Top row: Bruce Ward, Don Davis, Ledell Lee, and Stacy Johnson. Bottom row: Jack Jones, Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee. Lee, Jones, and Marcel and Kenneth Williams were executed this week; the others’ executions have been stayed.

Arkansas Department of Corrections/Reuters

The fourth convicted murderer to be executed in eight days by the state of Arkansas convulsed 20 times before he died, an Associated Press reporter who was present said:

[Kenneth] Williams’ body jerked 15 times in quick succession, then the rate slowed for a final five movements. J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson who did not witness the execution, called it “an involuntary muscular reaction” that he said was a widely known effect of the sedative midazolam, the first of three drugs administered.


The state had scheduled eight executions to be conducted in 11 days because its supply of midazolam expires April 30; four of them were delayed by court rulings. Midazolam, which has been involved in a number of botched-execution cases across the country, is a sedative that is used as the first of three drugs in the state’s lethal injection “cocktail.” Many activists, and some judges, believe its use inherently constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Arkansas is one of many states that currently facing logistical or practical difficulties related to the procurement of lethal injection drugs, which pharmaceutical companies have increasingly refused to supply, in recent years, for ethical reasons.

Kenneth Williams murdered a 57-year-old man after escaping from a jail where he was serving a sentence for the murder of a 19-year-old woman. He has admitted to committing both crimes.