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Arkansas carries out first double execution since 2000

Jack Jones (left) and Marcel Williams (right). Photo: Arkansas Department of Correction via AP, File

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas put to death two men Monday night in the first back-to-back executions in the United States since 2000.

Jack Harold Jones and Marcel Wayne Williams were among eight inmates set for execution in April before the state’s supply of a lethal injection drug expires at the end of the month.

The compressed timeline set off a series of last-minute challenges from inmates challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol.

The Arkansas Supreme Court and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied requests for stays from Jones and Williams earlier Monday, as did the US Supreme Court.

Jones was administered the lethal injection at 7:06 p.m. Monday and pronounced dead 14 minutes later. Williams was administered the injection at 10:16 p.m. and was pronounced dead 17 minutes later.

Before Williams’ execution began, a federal district court judge issued a temporary stay based on claims from Williams’ lawyers that Jones’ death was “torturous and inhumane.”

Infirmary staff tried unsuccessfully for 45 minutes to place a line in Jones’ neck, before placing one elsewhere on his body, the emergency motion read.

The state called the claims “utterly baseless” and a federal judge lifted the temporary stay, clearing the way for Williams’ execution to proceed.

These lethal injections were the first back-to-back executions in the United States since Texas carried out the death sentences of Brian Roberson and Oliver Cruz on August 9, 2000, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Arkansas’ last double execution — of Allen Willett and Mark Gardner — was on September 8, 1999, according to the Department of Corrections.

No visible signs of pain

Williams was convicted in the 1994 rape and murder of Stacy Errickson. He forced her into her car at gunpoint and made her withdraw money at several ATMs in transactions caught on camera. Her body was found two weeks later.

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.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied him a stay based on that claim and another one arguing ineffective counsel in his trial.

A media witness said Williams’ chest heaved as he laid on the gurney after receiving the sedative.

There was no visible signs of struggle, such “grimacing” or “clenching of the fingers,” KARK reporter Jessi Turnure said.

But she acknowledged there may have been pain she couldn’t see.

“As far as we could tell, the inmate wasn’t having any sort of trouble throughout it,” she said.