Arkansas executed its fourth death-row inmate Thursday night, marking the last of a series of executions the state carried out before its supply of the drug used for lethal injections expired.
Although the drug used in Kenneth Williams’s execution was administered ahead of its Sunday expiration date, his lawyers called Friday for an investigation into the “problematic execution” after witnesses and media reports described Williams as “lurching, convulsing, coughing and jerking” for 20 minutes before he died, suggesting the drug didn’t sedate him as it was supposed to.
J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, dismissed the movements as an “involuntary muscular reaction” to midazolam, one of three drugs used in lethal injections and the one whose supply was set to expire. Though a common sedative, midazolam has faced controversy in the past for its use in a botched execution in Oklahoma. More recently it was used as part of a
Midazolam’s use is not illegal, however. As Garrett Epps noted, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to the drug in 2015 because the court had already established that states are not required to prove execution methods are entirely pain-free—a requirement Justice Samuel Alito wrote at the time “would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”