On Friday, the state Crime Lab filed a request to quash a subpoena for the records from the autopsy of Kenneth Williams, who was executed on April 27 and was reported to have jerked and convulsed upward of 20 times and was potentially conscious during the administration of the second paralytic drug.
Federal public defenders had requested the autopsy report for Williams and a series of photos, recordings,
In a brief supporting their motion, the Arkansas Crime Lab says that many of these are “privileged documents” which, if released, would be in violation of HIPPA. The Crime Lab said this would require the permission of the Administrator of the Estate of Kenneth Williams. In theory, the estate of Kenneth Williams’ could sue the Crime Lab, according to the suit. Federal public defenders could resolve the matter by asking permission for this material from Kenneth Williams’ estate.
Williams was one of four death row inmates executed in April of an originally planned eight. These executions involved the controversial drug midazolam, which critics said would not properly ensure inmates did not feel pain. The second drug of the cocktail is a paralytic drug, vecuronium bromide, which sometimes masks the suffering of inmates. The third drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart.
Media witnesses have described a “moan” and other movements occurring at 10:58 p.m., a minute after ADC spokesperson Solomon Graves told media a consciousness check was performed and the second paralytic drug was administered. If the paralytic drug, vecuronium bromide, was delivered while Williams was still moving this would be in direct contradiction of the procedure ADC Director Wendy Kelley described in federal court. Kelley said that “any movement” would prompt a second consciousness check. As Dale Baich, an experienced death penalty defense attorney who witnessed a botched execution in Arizona told me, this could also mean Williams was in pain:
“At a minimum, this was a deviation from the protocol. More profound, Mr. Williams was [potentially] conscious and was suffocated before the third drug was administered, which means he would have felt like he was burning. What is important is that all the evidence be preserved and that an independent investigation is conducted to get to the bottom of what went wrong with this execution, and the other three that took place this week.”