Kenneth Williams was the fourth killer executed in eight days in Arkansas. Witnesses say he lurched violently against his restraints. A spokesman for the governor called it “an involuntary muscular reaction.” Williams’ attorneys called it “horrifying.”
A report by University of Texas law students concludes that the treatment of death row inmates falls “woefully behind international standards for confinement.” Some spend decades living amid cruel conditions, including no physical contact with loved ones and little exposure to natural light and physical activity.
Bipartisan private commission says the state should not execute anyone until “significant reforms” are made. If you’re going to have the death penalty, it ought to be done right,” said former Gov. Brad Henry.
Arkansas has struggled to find enough witnesses. Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center says that, “If the role of the witness has changed, it’s because the importance of that role has grown,”says Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center.
So says expert Robert Weisberg of Stanford University, but nothing seems to move quickly in the state with the largest death row — 750 inmates — which hasn’t conducted an execution for more than a decade.
“The ship has far too many leaks, large and small, to reach its destination reliably,” Eric Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University, tells the New York Times. “The Arkansas example vividly shows the courts scrambling to patch some of them at the last second.”