What’s purported to be some of the extensive final words of condemned prisoner Kenneth Williams was distributed today by Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist in Arkansas.
The lengthy essay — from a man his attorneys argue is intellectually deficient and shouldn’t be executed on that account — touches on his crimes, his victims, the execution process, others on Death Row and a practice of feeding inmates fried chicken on execution days. I”ve asked a department spokesman about the veracity of what’s written. It’s a remarkable account.
Robinson explained to me how she came to have the work:
We connect through accesscorrections.com. I have much more that he’s written. I know it’s him from communicating with him since 2015. It is a private email system between the two of us. I have been communicating with all of the 8 this way. Only the inmate has access to it. I also know it’s him because his attorney contacted me today with an answer to an email I wasn’t sure he would get that I sent yesterday. I was surprised to receive the final piece today via email with instructions to release info while he is at Cummins awaiting the execution.
She added that prisoners have iPods on which they can listen to music and receive messages, though they first must pass through prison review.
Her introductory note, then what she provided of Williams’ writing follows. Note that the passage is copied as provided, with some obvious spelling errors):
Death row inmate Kenneth Williams contacted freelance journalist Deborah Robinson today at 2:30pmt 2:30pm, with less than 5 hours to his scheduled execution, and asked that she release some of the detailed, behind the scenes stories he shared with her of his thoughts and the process the men go through in preparing for their death dates. He also gave her a final piece he wanted to be released concerning his visit with his daughter yesterday. You will find his writings below. They may be used with or without attribution to freelance journalist Deborah Robinson. Williams has been communicating with Deborah since 2015.
Realizing that not all the men’s families were financially able to provide last rites services for them, Williams asked Deborah if she would raise money to help the families with expenses related to the executions. Through the crowd-funding website, www.youcaring.com/8outoftime, Deborah has raised more than $10,500 to help the men’s families. The money will pay for the cremation and some family visiting expenses for Jack Jones, Jr. and it will pay for the burial and some legal expenses for Williams. After reading Williams’ story on the fundraising site, the daughter of one of the men that Williams caused the death of, bought tickets for his daughter and granddaughter to visit him before his execution. Money was also raised for Stacey Johnson, who after receiving a stay, asked that funds allocated for him be given to Ledell Lee’s family. Although Lee was not initially one who asked for financial help, after his execution, people started giving on the website and asking that his family receive their financial gifts.
Here are some of the writings from what could be Williams’ final days on death row:
“Will you have any last words?” This was the question asked of me by Director Wendy Kelly of the Arkansas Department of Correction while her staff members checked my veins searching for the best place to inject a lethal injection needle into my arm, during my upcoming scheduled April 27th execution. They found it difficult locating a vein in my arm. The old veins where loyal to me; discerning they meant me harm. I have those small hard to see veins. She asked me, “Would you mind signing a medical consent form authorizing a medical staff to place a stent in your arm in advance of your scheduled execution?” This of course would be so they could more easily inject the poison into my veins leading to my death. I thought to myself, ‘what kind of crazy question is this? You want my assistance by signing that form!’ I chuckled at the mere idea. “I’m not sure how to answer that,” I said. Although I knew exactly how to answer her. I was basically told it would happen one way or another. Later I would find out they would go so far as to cut your risk to find a vein if they had too. At that moment, I decided if it came down to it, I would sign that form.
Regarding my last words… Not that I believe that a person can speak last words, there’s eternity. I imagined I will once again apologize to the victim’s family members. In addition to that, I doubt it if you will be able to properly record my final words on paper. You want even understand them because they will be spoken in my spiritual language, in ‘Tongues’. Tongues are made mention of in the Bible: 1 Corinthians Chapter 14. If it be my fate to die on an execution table shaped like a crucifixion cross, my last words here on earth will be spoken to God above while the ADC and the State of Arkansas work to put my body to death beneath.
A routine question asked by a mental health personnel to a condemned prisoner with a date is, “Have you been thinking about harming yourself?” I found myself being a bit offended by the question. While I knew the woman who would record my every response meant well, I still thought to myself that the train of thought behind this question was to get ahead of anyone thinking of ending their life before the state could do so. They would not want the condemned prisoner to beat them to the punch. That would be like justice denied to them. You would have escaped before they could send you off on their terms and they would likely call you a coward for doing so. So, what then is not committing suicide but facing the music as they say? Is it than bravery?
A prison captain showed up at my cell door today and asked, “Kenneth, how are you? I would imagine as well as can be under the circumstances.” He asked, “What is your shirt and pants size? What size shoes do you wear? How tall are you? How much do you weigh?” Talk about the lamb being sized up before the slaughter. Only problem… I’m human. A fact someone seemed to have forgotten or just didn’t care. But wasn’t it the not caring about human life that got me in this grave situation, to begin with?
Whether a person is incarcerated or not, when death comes a knocking no one is allowed to exit with worldly possessions. Call it a mandatory rule. After a death row prisoner has received a date, others who have befriended him make their pitch for his possessions, putting their bid in. “Let me have those tennis shoes.” Damn brother! What am I going to walk around in for the time being? “Leave me that watch!”
“Let me get your radio.” ”He already have two radios, let me get it!” The poor guy about to check out may feel like he’s being picked alive. Insensitive idiots! Don’t they know they’re in the same condemned boat? Things a condemned person may not wish to give to other prisoners like family pictures or old letters, he will have the chance to send them home in a box. Shortly thereafter, he too will be sent home in a box.
Down here in Southern Dixie, in the Arkansas Dept. of Correction, boy do we know how to celebrate putting someone to death! Move over Texas. On Execution Day, in keeping with long held tradition, the entire ADC inmate population is feed ‘Finger Lickin’ Good Fried Chicken’. The security presence in the chow hall is ‘gravy’ thick to ensure no one doubles back for seconds. Between April 17th and April 27th, over a ten day period, that tradition will be put to the test. If it holds, the ADC is going to have to feed approximately 17,000 prisoners the most ever fried chicken to cover four different execution dates. When did the ADC decide prisoners were worth the expense of this operation? When did the money-making business have to take a back seat to the business of death? It must be a new obsession. All things considered, the ADC and the State of Arkansas isn’t in this to make money or save it. Only death is their objective as it was once mine in ignorance. The fried chicken is given to calm the prisoners, sooth them, by partially filling their bellies, which relaxes most people after they have had a decent meal. Rioting over an execution becomes a lot less likely to happen. I call this ”CHICKEN THERPY”. There have been guards and prisoners alike to use this chicken business on execution day as a verbal weapon to taunt death row prisoners. ”Can’t wait to eat that fried chicken when the state fry your ass”. Rarely do they feed fried chicken the way they do when executing someone. So, if a prisoner really enjoys fried chicken, like most do, they’re going to find themselves quietly looking forward to the day of the next execution so they can get that finger lickin’ fried chicken. There’s also the feeling of guilt afterward, having eaten the chicken, that it was at a fellow inmate’s expense. Colonel Sanders himself would have found this chicken business cruel. So why haven’t the ADOC.
On the eve of my scheduled April 27th execution, the Light burned brighter than I’ve ever Known it to! Only once before did it blind me so. It first happened in 1999. I was the twenty year old defendant in a capital murder case where the death penalty was rolled out against me. Mrs. Williams (No relation to me), the mother of the late 19-year-old Dominique Hurd, whom I senselessly murdered, took the stand having suffered great loss, and she shared these words, “I forgive Kenneth Williams. My daughter, Dominique ‘Nikki’ Hurd, was a forgiven person.” She said, ”I do not wish for him to be put to death. His death won’t bring my daughter back.” She went on to say, ”I pray that before Kenneth Williams leaves this world he will give his heart to Jesus.” On the other hand, yet not without understanding, the father of Dominique was full of indignation. He wanted me to feel his pain. Pain was my Language. It was my thing. But what I couldn’t comprehend; what could not be reconciled in my mind, was this woman’s pure act of grace, Love, mercy, and forgiveness. For someone who had taken away her child from her in the worst of ways.
The light shined into the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5
That marvelous light that shined forth that day out of Mrs. Williams acted as a planted seed into the soil of my life. Years later it would yield something special and God-bred. And when I could not think such a greater act of kindness, Love, and forgiveness could be expressed, I stood corrected. Thanks to Kayla Greenwood. She’s the daughter of the late Michael Greenwood, a man whose death I caused. His daughter, Kayla Greenwood, was just a child when her father was taken in a car wreck caused by me after I escaped prison. I was serving a life without sentence for killing Dominique. After 17 years of imprisonment and being on death row for also killing Cecil Boren during my escape, away from my own now 21-year-old daughter and never having seen before granddaughter, my death sentence finally had an April 27th date. A wish that burned within me was to see again my child and grandchild, possibly for the final time; first and last time. It had been over 17 years since I last saw my four-year-old child.
The word got out about my desire. The last person(s) I would have ever thought it possible answered my call. Kayla Greenwood, the daughter of the late Michael Greenwood, and her family reached out to prison officials. Kayla said, “I would like to speak with him on good terms and put closure between us and let him know my family and I forgive him. I would also like to pay for his daughter and granddaughter to go see him and want to figure out how I can get in contact with her to make it happen. I am not looking for anything else but closure and giving his daughter and granddaughter a chance I don’t get because I know how important it is.” Not only had this family forgiven me, which would have been going the extra mile, but within a short period of time they paid and arranged for my baby and grand babe to come to Arkansas from the West Coast to visit with me, which included picking them up from the airport and driving them to the prison over 40 miles away. We had the most amazing and heart-felt visit that left a former cold-blooded killer in tears of gratitude. Had officials permitted it, Kayla and I would have met with no objections from me. My heart has never known a greater deal of respect and admiration for another human being than for Kayla and her family, and Mrs. Williams, the mother of Dominique Hurd. I will also include my daughter Jasmine and son Marqevion for forgiving me for my abandonment and any shame I may have brought upon them because of my wrongs. If tomorrow be my last day here on earth, then Mrs. Williams’ prayer she made at my trial that I GIVE MY LIFE TO JESUS before I leave this world, would be answered. I have been forever changed, forever grateful because of ”Extreme Grace Unmerited.” Amen.
Min. Kenneth D. Williams
Arkansas Death Row