LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - After media witnesses described moments Kenneth William’s execution as including “coughing, convulsing, lurching, and jerking with sound,” attorneys from the Federal Defender's Office called for an independent investigation into all four executions over the past 7 days.
They say Kenneth Williams likely experienced torturous and painful effects. In a press conference on Friday, Governor Asa Hutchinson said he's confident in the witness account provided by Arkansas Department of Correction Director, Wendy Kelly, that directly contrasts some media witness reports.
“It was obvious to me that from her expression there was not any indication of pain and the ten seconds of movement on his part was what was described as coughing without noise,” said Hutchinson.
The Governor said that he still needs to review all witness testimony, but it should not change his option on any investigation. He thinks an independent investigation is “totally unjustified” and that the routine review that is done after every execution will suffice. The issue for attorneys is that those routine reviews are private and not written or released to the public.
That has people demanding transparency. Anti-death penalty advocates want a commission to come in and put a hold on the process similar to what they did in Oklahoma, but Governor Hutchinson is sure that what happened in Oklahoma did not happen in Arkansas. He said that execution took place over a very long period of time and there were a lot of reasons for a review of that in an independent investigation.
“Those reasons do not exist in this case,” said Hutchinson. “My goal was to make sure that we had justice in Arkansas in a way that reflected well on the state and I think that was accomplished."
Attorneys that represent several death row inmates were granted a request from U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to preserve evidence from Kenneth Williams' body. The state medical examiner was ordered to collect blood and tissue samples from Williams and to conduct an autopsy.