[Note: This post was updated to report on the execution of Jack Jones and to add additional information about the case of Marcel Williams, including the Supreme Court’s denial of his application for a stay of execution, the district court’s temporary stay, the lifting of that stay, and Williams’ execution.]

Less than 12 hours after a Texas death row inmate found apparently sympathetic ears for his plea that he was entitled to have assistance from his own psychiatrist at his trial, the Supreme Court turned down a request by an Arkansas inmate to put his execution, one of two scheduled for tonight at a prison in southeast Arkansas, on hold.

Inmate Jack Jones was scheduled to die at 7 pm local time for the brutal robbery, rape and strangulation of Mary Phillips. Jones argued that subjecting him to the state’s lethal injection protocol would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment because he suffers from diabetes and hypertension and has taken several medications for his chronic pain. The net effect of these chronic conditions, he contended, is that “he is likely to be either not rendered unconscious and thus suffer a painful death,” or he will “be left alive but brain damaged.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only justice to dissent publicly from the court’s denial of a stay. Jones was pronounced dead at 7:20 pm local time.

Jones’ execution was one of eight originally scheduled over an 11-day period. The state had wanted to carry out all of the executions before the end of the month, when one of the three drugs that it uses in its lethal injection protocol is set to expire. Some of those inmates obtained stays of their executions, but the Supreme Court last week rejected a broader challenge by a group of inmates, including Jones, to the state’s protocol. On Friday morning, one of the eight inmates, Ledell Lee, was executed.

Another inmate, Marcel Williams, was scheduled to be executed at 8:15 pm local time tonight. Williams had also asked the Supreme Court to step in, but the justices denied his request as well, less than 30 minutes before his execution was scheduled to begin. Sotomayor was the only justice to publicly dissent from that order. Williams was sentenced to death for the 1994 kidnapping, rape and murder of Stacy Errickson, a 22-year-old mother and military spouse.

Like Jones, Williams suffered from a variety of chronic health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, morbid obesity and sleep apnea. He too argued that executing him using the state’s lethal injection protocol would violate the Eighth Amendment; a physician who examined him attested that, if the current protocol is employed, “it is unlikely that the State will succeed in killing him.” The “more likely result,” the physician said, “will be that he is left with disabling, irreversible injuries.”

After the Supreme Court denied his request for a stay, Williams returned to a federal district court in Arkansas, where he again sought to postpone his execution, citing problems that occurred during the execution of Jack Jones earlier tonight. Among other things, Williams told the district court, medical staff at the prison spent 45 minutes trying to place a central line in Jones’ neck, but eventually gave up and inserted one elsewhere in Jones’ body. The district court granted a temporary stay, but lifted the stay at 9:22 pm local time. (h/t Chris Geidner for the district court documents) Officials began to administer the lethal-injection drugs at 10:16 pm local time, and Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 pm.

Posted in Featured, What's Happening Now

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Court denies stay to Arkansas inmate (FINAL UPDATE), SCOTUSblog (Apr. 24, 2017, 8:23 PM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2017/04/court-denies-stay-arkansas-inmate/