State executes convicted killer Jones, denies last-minute appeal
Arkansas put to death a convicted killer on Monday night with plans to execute a second inmate the same night as officials moved to carry out multiple death sentences before the expiration of a key lethal-injection drug.
Jack Harold Jones Jr., 52, was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m. after federal and state courts denied a spate of lastminute appeals based on his health and the efficacy of the state’s three-drug protocol.
The second prisoner, 46-year-old Marcel Wayne Williams, was slated to die at 8:15 p.m., but won a temporary stay of execution in federal court late Monday after his attorneys argued that Jones appeared to suffer and was “gulping for air.”
Defense attorneys said the Jones execution “appeared to be tortuous and inhumane,” a claim that the Arkansas Attorney General’s office dismissed as “utterly baseless.”
The Associated Press reported that the Jones execution went smoothly.
“There were no apparent signs of complications during the execution,” the AP reported. “Jones was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m., about 14 minutes after the procedure began. His chest stopped moving two minutes after a consciousness check.”
Jones had acknowledged his guilt in the 1995 murder and rape of Mary Phillips, a 34-year-old bookkeeper who was found with a coffee-pot cord tied around her neck at her office.
Her 11-year-old daughter Lacy Phillips, who had accompanied her mother to work, was found badly beaten but survived.
“This evening, Lacey Phillips Manor and Darla Phillips Jones have seen justice for the brutal rape and murder of their mother, Mary Phillips,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in a statement.
Arkansas would be the first state to carry out back-to-back executions since Texas did so in 2000.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an execution order in February for eight inmates to be put to death between April 17-27, but four have received stays of execution that will push their cases beyond April 30, the expiration date of the state’s doses of the sedative midazolam.
Jones was the second inmate to be executed under the condensed timetable after Ledell Lee, 51, who was put to death Thursday at the Cummins unit of the state Department of Correction.
“A governor never asks for this responsibility, but I accept it as part of the solemn pledge I made to uphold the law. Jack Jones expressed his willingness to proceed today, and we hope this will help bring closure to the Phillips family,” said Mr. Hutchinson in a statement late Monday.
Lee’s was the first execution in Arkansas since 2005 as a result of a legal battle over the state’s lethal-injection protocol, which was resolved in the state’s favor on Feb. 21, leaving just 10 weeks to carry out executions
State officials have been unable to procure additional supplies of the sedative midazolam, the first of three drugs used in the protocol, as a result of pharmaceutical companies increasingly refusing to provide products for executions.
McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. has fought to force the state to return supplies of another drug, vecuronium bromide, arguing that the product was provided on the condition that it be used for legitimate medical purposes only.
The meal requested by Jones was three pieces of fried chicken, potato logs with tartar sauce, beef jerky bites, three Butterfinger bars, a chocolate milkshake with Butterfinger bits and fruit punch, according to the Arkansas Times.
Williams was convicted of raping and murdering 22-year-old Stacy Errickson after kidnapping her from a Jacksonville gas station and forcing her to withdraw money from several ATMs in 1994.
Williams’ last meal was three pieces of fried chicken, banana pudding, nachos with chili cheese and jalapenos, and potato logs with ketchup, the Times reported.
Earlier, attorneys for Williams argued that he was too overweight at 400 lbs. to be put to death, while Jones said his medical problems, including diabetes, made him too unhealthy, both contending that their physical issues would cause them to suffer during the lethal-injection process.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling denying Jones’s motion that witnesses said “at no time did Lee show any signs of physical distress, such as gasping, groaning or struggling against the restraints.”
“The evidence that Jones provides regarding his specific medical conditions falls short of distinguishing himself from Lee or any other inmates, and it fails to demonstrate that the protocol will create a demonstrated risk of severe pain if applied to him,” said the court.
The last inmate facing execution before the April 30 expiration deadline is Kenneth Dewayne Williams, who is slated to be put to death Thursday for the 1999 slaying of Cecil Boren.
He killed Boren after breaking out of prison, where he had been serving a life sentence for the murder of University of Arkansas student Dominique “Nikki” Hurd.
● This article was based in part on wire-service reports.
Jack Jones (left) was executed by the state of Arkansas via lethal injection on Monday night. Marcel Williams was also slated for capital punishment that night.