Arkansas executed its fourth inmate in eight days Thursday night, wrapping up an accelerated schedule with a lethal injection that left the prisoner lurching and convulsing 20 times before he died.
Kenneth Williams, 38, was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m., 13 minutes after the execution began at the Cummins Unit prison at Varner.
Arkansas had scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period before one of its lethal injection drugs expires on Sunday. That would have been the most in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, but courts issued stays for four of the inmates.
The four lethal injections that were carried out included Monday's first double execution in the United States since 2000.
"I extend my sincerest of apologies to the families I have senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones," Williams said in a final statement he read from the death chamber. "... I was more than wrong. The crimes I perpetrated against you all was senseless, extremely hurtful and inexcusable."
Williams also spoke in tongues, the unintelligible but language-like speech used in some religions. But his prayer faded off as the sedative midazolam took effect. His final words were, "The words that I speak will forever be, will forever ..." before he fell silent.
The inmate breathed heavily through his nose until just after three minutes into his execution, when his chest leaped forward in a series of what seemed like involuntary movements. His right hand never clenched and his face remained what one media witness called "serene."
After the jerking, Williams breathed through his mouth and moaned or groaned once — during a consciousness check — until falling still seven minutes into the lethal injection.
Williams was sentenced to death for killing a former deputy warden, Cecil Boren, after he escaped from prison in 1999. At the time of his escape in a 500-gallon barrel of hog slop, Williams was less than three weeks into a life term for the death of a college cheerleader.
The Supreme Court has turned away an appeal seeking to force the CIA to release the full 2014 Senate report about the agency's use of harsh interrogation tactics.
The justices on Monday let stand an appeals court ruling that said the 6,900-page report prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee was not subject to Freedom of Information laws.
The committee previously released a lengthy summary of the report to the public, but the American Civil Liberties Union sued to obtain the full version. The ACLU argued that the report became subject to disclosure laws after the committee sent it around to several federal agencies for review.
The appeals court said Congress clearly intended to retain control of the report.
The highest court in Massachusetts has formally approved the dismissal of more than 21,000 drug convictions that were tainted by the misconduct of a former state drug lab chemist.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says the final order from the Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday marks the single largest dismissal of convictions in U.S. history.
The action by the court was expected after seven district attorneys in eastern Massachusetts submitted lists on Tuesday totaling 21,587 cases they would be unwilling or unable to prosecute if new trials were ordered.
The cases were called into question when chemist Annie Dookhan was charged with tampering with evidence and falsifying drug tests. Dookhan pleaded guilty to perjury and other charges in 2013 and served a three-year prison sentence.
A white former South Carolina police officer charged in the death of an unarmed black motorist is expected in court as his federal trial approaches.
A motions hearing is scheduled Friday in the case against 35-year-old Michael Slager.
Slager's federal civil rights trial in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott starts next month. Another hearing is scheduled for Monday, when attorneys will discuss the admission of certain experts to testify.
Last month, a federal judge ruled prosecutors may show jurors video of the former North Charleston officer shooting Scott. The bystander's cellphone video was viewed millions of times around the world.
Slager also faces murder charges in state court, where his first trial ended in a hung jury. His retrial is scheduled for August.
Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in nearly 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.
The court voted Wednesday to halt the execution of an inmate facing lethal injection Thursday night, two days after justices stayed the executions of two other inmates. The series of 4-3 decisions blocking the start of what had been an unprecedented plan to execute eight men in 11 days were only the latest in recent years preventing this deeply Republican state from resuming capital punishment.
The possibility that justices could continue sparing the lives of the remaining killers scheduled to die this month has left death penalty supporters including Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson frustrated and critical of the high court.
"I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court's review," Hutchinson said in a statement after the Wednesday ruling.
Since the last execution in 2005, the state Supreme Court has at least twice forced Arkansas to rewrite its death penalty law. One of those cases spared Don Davis, who again received a stay Monday night. The legal setbacks at one point prompted the state's previous attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, to declare Arkansas' death penalty system "broken."
But unlike the earlier decisions, this stay came from a court that had shifted to the right in recent elections. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million last year on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. Arkansas was among a number of states where conservative groups spent millions on such efforts.
A judge in the city where two unarmed blacks died in a 137-shot barrage of Cleveland police gunfire can hear dereliction of duty charges against five police supervisors accused of failing to control a high-speed chase involving more than 100 officers, the state's highest court ruled Thursday.
The ruling addresses only where the case can be heard and not the substance of the misdemeanor charges against the supervisors.
The supervisors' attorneys filed an appeal in July 2015 that said the case should be tried in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, where charges were originally filed. The 8th District Court of Appeals agreed and issued an order prohibiting East Cleveland Municipal Judge William Dawson from hearing the case after county prosecutors filed identical charges in that city.
Susan Gragel, the attorney who wrote the appeal on behalf of the supervisors, said that while she respects the Supreme Court's ruling, the Eighth District's prohibition order correctly addressed the fact that charges were filed in East Cleveland while the same charges were pending in county court.
The chase began near Cleveland police headquarters after an officer standing outside the building reported that a shot had been fired from a beat-up Chevy Malibu passing by. Experts later said it was likely the sound of the car backfiring.
The supervisors' trial originally was scheduled to begin in July 2015 in front of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell, who weeks earlier acquitted Brelo during a bench trial, sparking protests. Then-County Prosecutor Tim McGinty told the supervisors and their attorneys at a hearing before trial that identical charges had been filed in East Cleveland and asked O'Donnell to dismiss the county case, which he did.
The city of Cleveland paid the families of Russell and Williams a total of $3 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit.
The first two inmates facing lethal injection under Arkansas' unprecedented multiple execution plan are seeking a stay from the state Supreme Court.
Attorneys for Don Davis and Bruce Ward asked justices Wednesday to block their executions, scheduled for Monday, while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants. The U.S. high court is set to hold oral arguments in that case April 24, a week after the two are set to be put to death.
The inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts in their cases.
The two men are among seven inmates Arkansas plans to put to death over a 10-day period. The filing is among a flurry of lawsuits aimed at halting the executions.