At a press conference this morning at the State Capitol, Governor Hutchinson said that there would be no need for an independent review of last night’s execution of death row inmate Kenneth Williams or even a written report, calling such an investigation “totally unjustified” even though witnesses said that as the deadly drugs were administered, Williams convulsed for up to 20 seconds and coughed and made other sounds loud enough to be heard through the plate glass separating the execution chamber and the witness room.
Hutchinson said that his goal over the past two weeks was to fulfill the requirements of the law and “to make sure we did justice in Arkansas in a way that reflects well on the state.” He said he thought that had been accomplished, and that the families of the victims of the four men executed “were finally provided the justice they were promised.”
Hutchinson said that the execution was conducted within the protocols set forth by the legislature, and had been litigated extensively to make sure it complied with the law. He said that there was no indication Williams experienced any pain, a contention reporters circled back to several times during this morning’s meeting.
“I see no reason for an investigation other than the routine investigation done after every execution,” Hutchinson said. Asked again about Williams making noises and convulsing during the execution, Hutchinson said that while he’s not a medical doctor, there were people in place to observe and make sure things were done property, including ADC director Wendy Kelley. He said Kelley — who was closest to Williams during the execution, Hutchinson said — had reported no indication of pain, only “coughing without noise.” Hutchinson said that coughing is a known side effect of midazolam according to the drug’s packaging label. “People react to drugs in different ways,” he said. Asked if witnesses who reported convulsions and audible sounds were wrong, Hutchinson said that as a prosecutor, he learned that if you have five eyewitnesses to an event, they’ll present five different accounts.
Asked when the state might release the review of Williams’ death, Hutchinson said a routine review of an execution is not a written report, only a meeting and conversation between those who were involved in the execution. He has not asked for a written report on Williams’ execution, he said, and sees no reason to. A timeline of the execution will be released, and witness accounts will be reviewed by those involved in the review. He said that issuing a written report about the execution might imply that something happened outside the protocols, and he sees no reason to believe that. He later said that accounts by defense attorneys who witnessed Williams’ execution “may not reflect the reality of what happened last night,” adding that he believes the public has confidence in what happened.
Asked about discrepancies between Kelley’s report of soundless coughing and witnesses who said Williams could be heard through the glass, Hutchinson said that he was “not prepared to answer those questions today,” and would wait and see what the execution witness statements say. Asked whether the state should videotape executions instead of relying solely on witness statements, Hutchinson laughed and told the reporter that if such a tape existed of the Williams execution, the reporter would be asking for it — an apparent reference to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Hutchinson said several times there is no need to change the execution protocol currently in place, adding that the call for the use of a firing squad by the state “takes us back and is not acceptable in today’s world.”
Asked if the state would attempt to secure a new supply of midazolam, a controversial drug meant to sedate the inmates prior to execution, Hutchinson said, “we’ll have to look at options down the road.” He said that when the state’s midazolam supply expires at the end of the month, the state will seek to acquire drugs, but said that he hadn’t directed the ADC to look for the drugs yet.