CUMMINS UNIT, Ark. — Arkansas executed two death row inmates, both convicted murderers, Monday night, making it the first state to carry out two death sentences on one day since 2000.
The Arkansas Department of Correction administered its lethal injection cocktail to Jack Jones, 52, at 7:06 p.m. CT and a coroner pronounced him dead at 7:20 p.m. Marcel Williams, 46, was declared dead by the same procedure just over three hours later at 10:33 p.m.
J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, described the executions as "flawless."
Jones' and Williams' executions are part of an aggressive schedule set by Hutchinson that originally planned to execute eight men within 10 days, because a key lethal injection drug expires at the end of the month. Four of those executions were blocked by courts but Arkansas executed Ledell Lee on Thursday night, only minutes before his death warrant expired.
Williams did not make a final statement. Jones' last words were lengthy and included an apology to his victims' families. "I hope over time you could learn who I really am, and that I am not a monster," Jones said.
Williams death sentence was briefly put on hold after Williams lawyers asked for and received a stay by claiming that Jones' execution was "torturous."
Judge Kristine Baker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas denied the motion's request in a ruling delivered at 9:22 p.m., more than an hour after Williams was originally scheduled to die.
The Arkansas Department of Correction is using a controversial lethal injection combo that lawyers for the two inmates had attempted to challenge in state and federal courts. But both men's appeals have been dismissed by the Arkansas Supreme Court, a district court, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court as of Monday evening.
Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves requested six witnesses from local media to watch the procedure — three for Jones and three for Williams.
Graves also shared what Jones and Williams requested as their last meal.
Jones ate three pieces of fried chicken, potato logs with tartar sauce, beef jerky bites, three Butterfinger candy bars, a chocolate milkshake with Butterfinger pieces and fruit punch.
Williams requested three pieces of fried chicken, potato logs with ketchup, banana pudding, nachos topped with chili cheese and jalapeño peppers and two Mountain Dews.
As of Monday at 6:20 p.m. CT, neither had any litigation blocking their execution as the U.S. Supreme Court refused to issue any last minute stays.
In their most compelling appeal, Jones and Williams' lawyers claimed that the lethal injection protocol would not work on them because of their medical conditions. Their attorneys argued that the two men suffered from hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea. These issues cause poor circulation and could cause a "botched" execution in which the two inmates could wake up during the procedure and die painfully. A doctor also testified during their appeals that their conditions in combination with the lethal injection drugs could leave them brain dead.
Their medical conditions are severe: Jones had to have his leg amputated due to his diabetes. His lawyers also noted that he is a regular user of the painkiller methadone, which might mean that the sedative in the drug cocktail would not work on him effectively.
Williams gained 200 pounds in prison and is currently listed at 400 pounds by the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Attorneys for Williams attempted to reopen his federal habeas corpus case in the afternoon on Monday. They filed the motion with the Eastern District Court of Arkansas and claimed his trial lawyers made numerous mistakes during his case that led to his death sentence.
A federal judge stated that if the jury had been "confronted with this considerable mitigating evidence, there is a reasonable probability that it would have returned with a different sentence.
Nevertheless, both men are guilty and neither has claimed his innocence.
Jones was found guilty of the rape and murder of Mary Phillips, 34, and the attempted murder of her 11-year-old daughter.
A jury found Williams guilty of killing Stacy Errickson, a 22-year-old mother of two.
The two did express their deep sorrow over the murders in their individual clemency hearings.
Though his lawyer filed for clemency, Jones said he would decline it if the state offered it to him.
"I'm sorry, not only for what I did but for you having to come here," Jones wrote in a letter read by his lawyer Jeff Rosenzweig at his clemency hearing, which the inmate did not attend.
Jones also noted that he would prefer death than returning to prison now.
"There's no way in hell I would spend another day or 20 years in this rat hole," Rosenzweig read.
Williams was also regretful, but pleaded for mercy at his clemency hearing.
"Being in this situation has forced me to look at myself," he said. "Sometimes you don't like the person you see looking back at you. So you do what you can to change that — and I've tried."
"To those I hurt, I'm sorry is not enough," Williams added in an emotional clemency hearing. "I wish I could take it back, but I can't."
Dina Windle, who was raped by Williams in 1994, testified at his hearing, noting that he was a "changed man" and had "found God."
Windle was told that Gov. Hutchinson would call her on Monday morning, the day of Williams' execution, to hear her victim's perspective, but the governor never called.
"The governor has been touting it that we're giving the victims their closure and the closure is putting this other human being to death — that's not my closure," Windle told NBC News.
"I hate what [Williams] did to me. I hate what he did to the other girls," she added. "But I can't hate the man because I didn't know the man. It's pointless. For me, it relieved so much and took off so much weight off my shoulders, and it made me a better person — a happier person — to forgive this man."
The clemency board rejected both men's cases earlier this month.