We’ll update this post throughout the day and night.
The Arkansas Department of Correction is planning for the first double execution in the U.S. in 16 years tonight. Jack Jones, 52, and Marcel Williams, 46, are scheduled to die by lethal injection. They would be the second and third prisoners put to death as part of a hurried schedule Governor Hutchinson set in advance of the state’s supply of one of the three drugs used in the execution protocol expiring on April 30. Ledell Lee was put to death on Thursday.
Hutchinson originally scheduled eight death row prisoners to die over 11 days. The Arkansas Supreme Court issued stays in two of the sentences and a federal judge intervened in another. One more prisoner, Kenneth Williams, is set to die on Thursday.
Jack Jones’ crime and history
Jones was sentenced to death in 1996 for the June 6, 1995, rape and murder of Bald Knob bookkeeper Mary Phillips, 34, and the attempted murder of Phillips’ 11-year-old daughter, Lacy. Investigators found that after entering the accounting office where Mary Phillips worked, Jones told Phillips he was going to rob her, then tied Lacy — who was at the office visiting her mother — to a chair in another room before binding, raping and strangling Mary Phillips with the cord from a coffee maker. After Mary Phillips was dead, Jones returned and strangled Lacy Phillips until she passed out, then fractured her skull with repeated blows from a BB gun he was carrying until he believed she was dead. Lacy Phillips recovered, and later testified against Jones at trial.
At a clemency hearing April 7, Jones’ attorney Jeff Rosenzweig told the board Jones only requested a clemency hearing in solidarity with his fellow death row inmates. Jones said even if the governor granted him clemency, he would deny it. “There’s no way I would spend another 20 years in this rat hole,” he wrote in a letter read by Rosenzweig. Jones also addressed Lacy Phillips in his letter:
“For so many years, I kept a grainy, black and white Xerox photo of you on the surgical table, kept it taped to the inside of my notebook and at the bottom, I had written in bold letters, ‘YOU DID THIS.’ I kept it so I would never forget to remember.
“I shall not ask to be forgiven, for I haven’t the right. I’m so very, very sorry, Lacy. I’ve no excuse. None. For years and years, I’ve hoped and prayed you’d be ok. Sounds stupid, I know, but I am deeply sorry.
Jones’ sister, Lynn Scott, protested outside the Cummins Unit Thursday. She said there’s no question of her brother’s guilt, but said execution is “barbaric.” She also recounted Jones history of mental illness and trauma before the Parole Board during Jones’ clemency hearing.
The Harvard Fair Punishment Project summed much of it up:
Jack Jones suffers from bipolar disorder and depression. His symptoms of serious mental illness date back to his childhood. He endured visual hallucinations where he saw “bugs, ants and spiders in particular, that he believed were going to get him.” These hallucinations were paralyzing. He “thought the only way to be safe from [them] was to hold very still.” Family members described how on other occasions, he would sometimes rock and bang his head against the cupboards. A doctor at the time diagnosed him with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. In 1980, when Jack was 16, a doctor recommended he receive psychotherapy and family counseling, but the family did not follow through.
In 1989, Jack attempted suicide. He tried again in 1991, when he jumped off a bridge. He was finally admitted for psychiatric attention. Just months prior to the capital murder, Jack voluntarily committed himself to the Pinnacle Pointe Hospital in Little Rock, reporting severe depression and repeated suicidal ideation. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed Lithium. He received the bipolar diagnosis again just weeks before the capital murder, in May of 1995.
Jack also experienced physical abuse by his father, and sexual abuse at the hands of three strangers who abducted and raped him.
The Fair Punishment Project also notes that the jury in Jones’ original case heard little mitigating evidence and that his lawyers used a medical expert who the Medical Board deemed “mentally incompetent to practice medicine to such an extent as to endanger the public” a year after he testified in Jones’ trial. “The expert told the jury that he knew that Jack was not bipolar because he was bipolar himself,” reports the Fair Punishment Project.
Marcel Williams’ crime and history
Williams was sentenced to death in 1997 for the Nov. 20, 1994, murder of Stacy Rae Errickson, 22, who Williams kidnapped at gunpoint as she was pumping gas at a Shell Stop gas station in Jacksonville. After taking Errickson to at least 18 ATM machines to withdraw a total of $350 from her account, Williams raped her at a mini-storage facility, then beat and suffocated her to death at Riverview Park in North Little Rock. Her body was discovered in a shallow grave on Dec. 5, 1994.
Williams acknowledges his guilt, but his clemency petition is a catalog of horrific childhood trauma:
Marcel was sexually abused by a multitude of perpetrators throughout his adolescence. Older women sexually abused him and paid him in food stamps or covered his mother’s electric bill in return. Marcel’s mother facilitated the arrangement, offering his sexual services to women that were in their twenties, thirties, and forties, while he was only a child. At one point the family was evicted and lived in the home of one of these abusers, Diane, as a quid pro quo in exchange for Diane’s free access to sexually abuse the ten-year-old Marcel. Marcel’s mother thought nothing of facilitating this arrangement as she too earned money for the family by prostituting and stealing. Marcel was also sexually abused by two of the men that Sarah brought into the family home. David Lisak, a psychologist who specializes in the study of the effects of sexual abuse, characterized the involvement of Marcel’s mother in his sexual abuse as a form of incest that is extreme and profoundly damaging.
Marcel’s mother was also violently abusive. Dr. Lisak described the abuse as “extremely severe.” Sarah beat Marcel with belt buckles, switches, or extension cords. She was a large woman and as a child Marcel was skinny. She would sit astride him and pummel him with her fists. At the age of 13, Marcel’s mother doused him with a pot of boiling water leaving burns up and down his arm. She burned him with a curling iron. On at least one occasion, Marcel’s mother put a pot of water on to boil, heated up extension cords in the water, and then beat him, naked, with the cords until he was covered in gashes. His cousins watched in horror as he fled the house, still naked and bleeding. Marcel was never safe at home. His mother would wake him up while he was sleeping to beat him. One time she beat him so fiercely in bed that the bunk bed he was sleeping in collapsed.
Later, as a 17-year-old, Williams was sent to adult prison, where he was gang raped.
According to his attorneys, the jury in Williams’ capital murder trial heard essentially no mitigating evidence. In 2006, U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes vacated Williams’ death sentence, noting that Williams had been subject to “every category of traumatic experience that is generally used to describe childhood trauma,” but the state appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, which overruled Holmes on procedural grounds.
11th hour appeals
Lawyers for Jones and Williams have filed appeals related to midazolam, the sedative used in the state’s execution protocol. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker found that midazolam “could” violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and inhumane punishment by not fully rendering an inmate unconscious. Baker issued an injunction against the state performing executions that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated. Jones and Williams have said their special medical conditions make them especially likely to suffer under Arkansas’s drug protocol. Jones has or likely has diabetes, hypertension, peripheral neuropathy, chronic pain and sleep apnea. He’s also amputated below one knee and takes a high daily dose of methadone, which his lawyers say could render midazolam ineffective. While in solitary confinement, Williams gained 200 pounds, according to his attorneys. He now weighs 400 pounds and suffers from diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea.
Attorneys for Williams have also asked a federal court to reconsider his habeas case because his trial attorneys were ineffective.
A number of appeals have moved through U.S. District Court and the 8th Circuit and have likely been sent to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As of Monday afternoon, no stays of execution are in effect.
4 p.m. Death penalty opponents delivered another 46,000 signatures to Governor Hutchinson opposing the executions. The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says at least 204,000 people have asked the governor to stop the executions.
4:04 p.m.: Attorneys for Marcel Williams have filed a motion for a stay with the Arkansas Supreme Court. The brief alleges that Williams’ attorney during his direct appeal in the late ’90s, Herbert Wright — now Circuit Judge Herbert Wright — used 10 pages of plagiarized material in the 14 page brief he filed on behalf of Williams.
” … entire sections were copied from other sources and Mr. Wright simply shoehorned in random facts from Mr. Williams’s case in an apparent effort to make it appear relevant to Mr. Williams’s case. … Mr. Wright did not absentmindedly neglect to attribute certain citations to the source. Rather, he wholesale copied and pasted entire arguments into the brief and passed them off as his own.”
The Associated Press has a useful explainer on why it takes so long for death sentences to be carried out.
5:31 p.m.: The attorney general has filed a response to the motion from Williams before the Arkansas Supreme Court. It calls the motion “the definition of dilatory litigation tactics.” In other words, legal filings aimed at causing delay.
All the remaining motions have been rejected by U.S. district courts and the 8th Circuit and are before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jones is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. Williams is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.
5:43 p.m.: Reporting from Cummins, Jacob Rosenberg says that Jack Jones’ final meal consisted of three pieces of fried chicken, potato logs with tartar sauce, beef jerky bites, three Butterfinger bars, 1 chocolate milkshake with Butterfinger bits and fruit punch.
Williams’ last meal was three pieces of fried chicken, banana pudding, nachos with chili cheese topped with jalapeno and potato logs with ketchup.
6:43 p.m.: Media witnesses leave for Jones execution. They only bring with them notepad and pens provided by Department of Correction. The witnesses are Andrew DeMillo of the AP, Tracy Whitaker of the Searcy Daily Citizen and David Lipman of KTHV, Channel 11.
6:51 p.m.: Lynn Scott, sister of Jack Jones, is sobbing inside a parked car in the protest area, David Koon reports. After doing a few interviews, state troopers told Koon he needed to move to a “media area” a quarter mile away.
The New York Times today ran a collection of short, oral history-style interviews with people who have witnessed executions, including Marine Glisovic of KATV, Channel 7, who watched Ledell Lee die last week.
From an interview with a Texas prison chaplain who witnessed 95 executions:
I’ve seen a reporter pass out. He was about 6-foot-4. I’m on the inside in the death chamber itself, but I have a mirror, and I could see him just go collapse on the back row. And the major couldn’t take him out because the law says you can’t open the door until it’s over.
That’s one of the byproducts that people don’t realize. Family members get sick. Witnesses get sick. Some of my best guards who were with them all day long — they got sick. The warden changed it to where I would have the same guys all day long, and those are the ones that just eventually had what they called a nervous breakdown, which I just think is horrible — to see some good-looking captains and lieutenants leave the system because they just can’t do executions. It affects everyone, one way or another.
The victim’s family is hurt, and the family of the individual. You’re not just killing a person. You’re killing his whole family. There’s a lot of people involved in this, not just the poor kid lying on a gurney.
People don’t realize that you never get over it, unless you’re just cold and calculated. I’ll never forget it. Not a day goes by. Not a day goes by. And I don’t expect it to. If it does, then I didn’t do what I was supposed to do, as a Christian and as a chaplain and as a human being.
7:06 p.m.: The lethal injection procedure began.
7:20 p.m.: Jones is pronounced dead.
7:30 p.m.: Statement from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge:
“This evening, Lacey Phillips Manor and Darla Phillips Jones have seen justice for the brutal rape and murder of their mother, Mary Phillips. Mary was performing her job as a bookkeeper in Bald Knob on June 6, 1995, when she was strangled to death with a coffee pot cord while her 11-year-old daughter Lacey clung to life a few feet away after being choked and beaten. The Phillips family has waited far too long to see justice carried out, and I pray they find peace tonight.”
7:33 p.m.: The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied a stay request for Marcel Williams.
7:38 p.m.: Governor Hutchinson issues a statement:
“This evening the rule of law was upheld when the sentence of the jury for Jack Jones was carried out after 20 years of review. The victim’s family has waited patiently for justice during that time. The jury sentenced Jack Jones to death, and his sentence was upheld by judges and reviewed thoroughly in courts of appeal at each level.
“A governor never asks for this responsibility, but I accept it as part of the solemn pledge I made to uphold the law. Jack Jones expressed his willingness to proceed today, and we hope this will help bring closure to the Phillips family.”
Rosenberg reports that media witness Andrew DeMillo of the AP said Jones gave about a two-minute public statement. When the execution began, his lips were still moving, though it was unclear if he was talking. “For the next few minutes,” Jones chest moved up and down, DeMillo said. At 7:11 p.m., the execution team did a conscious check by touching his eyelids, but his check continued to move until 7:13 p.m. At 7:17 p.m., a second consciousness check was performed and there was no movement. At 7:20 p.m., the coroner declared Jones dead.
Robby Jones, who is victim Mary Phillips son-in-law and who stood with other family members near the roadblock, said he hoped the execution would prevent others from committing murder, David Koon reports. “He shouldn’t have lived this long,” Jones said. “The judicial system failed.” Family members left soon after Jack Jones was pronounced dead. Asked if Mary Phillips daughter Lacy, who Jack Jones strangled and pistol whipped nearly to death when she was 11, had witnessed the execution, a family member said Lacy had chosen to be with her sister.
Koon reports that state troopers don’t appear to be enforcing the rule that media should gather a quarter of a mile away from the protestors.
Jones gave his lawyer a final statement to distribute. (I mistakenly reported these were Jones’ final words earlier):
“I want people to know that when I came to prison I made up my mind that I would be a better person when I left than when I came in.
“I had no doubt in my mind that I would make every effort to do this. I’d like to think that I’ve accomplished this.
“I made every effort to be a good person — I practiced Buddhism and studied physics. I met the right people and did the right things. There are no words that would fully express my remorse for the pain that I caused.”
8:15 p.m.: This is the new scheduled start time for the execution of Marcel Williams, according to Twitter reports citing the governor’s spokesman. Jessi Turnure of KARK and FOX 16, Kelly Kissel of the AP and Jacob Rosenberg reporting for the Arkansas Times are the media witnesses.
8:21 p.m.: Various media are reporting that U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker has issued a stay on the execution of Williams for 20 minutes. UPDATE: stay is on until 8:30 p.m. or further notice from the court, “whichever is later.”
Williams’ attorneys argue the execution of Jones is further evidence that midazolam does not sufficiently sedate a prisoner and thus the execution protocol constitutes cruel and inhumane punishment.
From the motion:
The State of Arkansas executed Jack Jones at approximately 7:20 p.m. Mr. Jones and Mr. Williams share similar medical conditions including diabetes and neuropathy. Mr. Jones agreed to the placement of a central line that was inserted by the infirmary hours before his execution. The infirmary staff tried unsuccessfully to place a central line in Mr. Jones’s neck for 45 minutes before placing one elsewhere on his body. Eye witness reports of the execution of Mr. Jones state that after the midazolam was administered at 7:06 p.m. The ADC did not wait 5 minutes to perform the consciousness check. During continual “consciousness checks,” and after 5 minutes had elapsed, around 7:11 or 7:12 p.m. Mr. Jones was moving his lips and gulping for air. Mr. Jones’s movements after the midazolam was administered is evidence of continued consciousness.
8:33 p.m.: The attorney general responds.
From the response:
“The claim that Jones’ execution appeared to be tortuous and inhuman is utterly baseless.”
The filing says that after the Arkansas Department of Correction unsuccessfully tried to insert a central line in Jones’ neck, ADC, at Jones’ request, placed two IV lines into Jones and the execution continued.
9:28 p.m.: A spokesman for the attorney general reports that Baker has lifted her stay.
Apparently there was a hearing, likely over teleconference.
From earlier, David Koon reports that Lynn Scott, sister of Jack Jones, was standing on the highway that leads to the prison, crying, shouting, “I told you I felt it. It was botched!” She said her brother suffocated to death. She was apparently reacting to stay granted, and since lifted, which said Jones’ execution was “torturous.”
10:15 p.m.: It’s been almost an hour since the stay was lifted on the execution of Williams. ADC moved to execute Ledell Lee within minutes of the U.S. Supreme Court lifting its stay on Thursday. Lee’s execution took 11 minutes. Jones’ took 14 minutes.
10:16 p.m.: Lethal injection procedure began.
10:33 p.m.: Marcel Williams pronounced dead.
10:36 p.m.: Governor Hutchinson issued a statement:
“After more than 20 years, justice has prevailed for the family of Stacey Errickson. I reviewed this case thoroughly and determined that clemency should not be granted. I appreciate the patience and long-suffering of the Errickson family through this ordeal. This is a serious and reflective time in our state and it is important for the Errickson family and all Arkansans to know that in this case our laws ended in justice.”
10:41 p.m.: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement:
“After years of delay, Stacy Errickson’s family and friends have seen justice carried out for her brutal death on November 20, 1994. Stacy was a young mother of two when she was kidnapped, raped and strangled to death with the drawstring from the hood of her own jacket. I hope that tonight’s lawful execution brings much-needed peace to all of Stacy’s loved ones, particularly her now-adult children Brittany and Bryan.”
11:20 p.m.: JR Davis, spokesman for Governor Hutchinson, calls executions “flawless” and said “they were carried out the way they should be carried out”