VARNER, Ark. – Witnesses say an Arkansas inmate who was the last in the state to be put to death before one of the state’s lethal injection drugs expires lurched and convulsed on the gurney before he died Thursday night. A governor’s spokesman described Kenneth Williams’ movements as “an involuntary muscular reaction” that she said is a known effect of one of the execution drugs.
Associated Press reporter Kelly Kissel witnessed Williams’ execution along with two other media witnesses. A window separates the chamber from the witnesses.
Here is his account:
10:32 p.m. — Media witnesses enter execution chamber viewing area. The door is shut behind them and a guard notifies the execution team that all witnesses are in place.
10:50 p.m. — A black curtain opens to show Williams on a gurney with Arkansas Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley standing nearby. She asks Williams if he wants to say something, then holds up a sheet of paper from which he reads a prepared statement.
10:52 p.m. — Williams begins speaking in tongues. Shortly afterward, a warden says “Officials are ready to proceed with the execution.”
10:53 p.m. — Williams reverts to English as a sedative takes effect. His final words are, “The final words that I speak will forever be, will forever …” before becoming unintelligible.
10:54 p.m. — Williams breathes regularly but heavily, with his head bobbing with each respiration. He swallows and his cheeks pucker.
10:55 p.m. — Williams lurches forward 15 times in quick succession, then another five times at a slower rate. The entire episode takes about 20 seconds. Media witnesses describe it as lurching, jerking, convulsing and coughing. Sound is heard in the chamber through the glass window.
10:56 p.m. — After the lurching, Williams breathes through his mouth for the next three minutes. One witness describes his chest as “pumping.”
10:57 p.m. — An attendant checks Williams for consciousness. Williams continues to breathe heavily.
10:59 p.m. — Williams’ breathing stops. He is still for the remainder of the execution.
11:03 p.m. — An attendant checks Williams’ vital signs and summons a coroner.
11:05 p.m. — A coroner declares Williams dead.