Lawyers for Kenneth Williams, the fourth inmate executed in Arkansas over an eight-day period, are calling for an investigation into the state’s lethal injection policy after witnesses described a “horrifying” death scene on Thursday, The New York Daily News reported.
Williams’s body reportedly jerked about 20 times after being given a lethal injection drug, and continued moaning and breathing heavily over thirteen minutes.
“We tried over and over again to get the state to comport with their own protocol to avoid torturing our client to death, and yet reports from the execution witnesses indicate that Mr. Williams suffered during this execution,” said Shawn Nolan, one of his lawyers.
Williams was on death row for killing a former deputy warden in an escape from prison, where he was serving time for another killing.
Witnesses said that three minutes after the first drug was injected, Williams began making noises that could be heard through the protective glass, including “lurching, jerking, convulsing and coughing.”
He pushed violently against his leather chest restraint, witnesses claimed.
State executioners deemed him unconscious, so they gave him a drug to paralyze his body—but The Guardian reported that he continued to breathe heavily and moan after the drug was administered.
Williams was pronounced dead at 11:05 pm last night.
A spokesman for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that Williams’s response was merely “an involuntary muscular reaction” from midazolam, the controversial lethal injection drug that has previously been blamed for similarly flubbed executions.
Arkansas rushed through four executions in eight days because the state’s supply of midazolam was set to expire on April 30.
[Photo: Arkansas Department of Correction]