LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- All eyes are on Arkansas as legal battles decide whether executions will take place. These will be the first executions set to take place in Arkansas since 2005 when Eric Nance was put to death. The executions are expected to be much different this time around.
THV11 explored what happened on execution day in 2005 and how things are expected to change this year.
“What is a delay?” Those were the words of Eric Nance as he sat awaiting his death at 8 o’clock on a Monday night.
He had eaten his final meal a few hours earlier; a bacon cheeseburger, French fries, ice cream and a Coke. He had been inquiring about his funeral arrangements and what would happen to his belongings. He asked what or who he should look at as the lethal injection took place. Nance had no final parting words for the records and no parting words for the family of Julie Heath.
Heath was the 18-year-old Malvern cheerleader Eric Nance was convicted of murdering back in 1993. He had stabbed her in the throat with a box cutter after seeing her standing by her broken-down car along U.S. 270. There were allegations of attempted rape. As Julie’s family members sat waiting for the execution, something unusual happened. A delay was issued.
In an 11th hour moment, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asked for a delay to give him time to review four appeals. Meanwhile, nearly 30 protestors were outside the governor’s mansion holding signs and remembering the lives of others executed. They were hoping this execution wouldn't happen.
90 minutes after the delay was issued, the Supreme Court denied all four appeals. Unlike the movies, a witness says Eric Nance remained composed. He had a fresh haircut, shower, and clean clothes, as he lay on the gurney covered by a thin blanket. Witnesses watched the execution take place behind a thick glass window. The lethal injection drugs were administered at 9:24 p.m. and he was pronounced dead by 9:30 p.m.
“I guess it brings closure that he's gone but you know we thought that this would you know make things better as far as being gone,” said a cousin of Julie Heath after the execution.
What happened that night in Nance’s execution is very different than what is expected to happen this time around.
The number of scheduled executions has increased. In 2005 it was a single execution in a single day. This year, legal battles have left things still on the table but double executions are planned.
Also, the sedative drug used is different. In 2005, sodium pentothal was the sedative used. This time, the sedative is called Midazolam; a very controversial drug.
At the time of Nance’s execution, many lethal injection lawsuits were just starting. There was a hiatus period from executing after 2005 because of these lawsuits. Had Nance's execution been scheduled a year later, he may have been on death row for many more years.
Governor Hutchinson maintains he is confident in the timetable and process in place for these executions.