Death notes: The executions of Jack Jones and Marcel Williams | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Death notes: The executions of Jack Jones and Marcel Williams

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 8:01 AM

THE LAST RITES: The executions of  Jack Jones (left) and Marcel Wiliams were attended by traditional prison record keeping.
  • THE LAST RITES: The executions of Jack Jones (left) and Marcel Wiliams were attended by traditional prison record keeping.
Yesterday evening, the state Correction Department released the customary log maintained on the final hours of people killed by the state Monday nightJack Jones and Marcel Williams.

Jones was sentenced to death in 1996 for the June 6, 1995, rape and murder of Bald Knob bookkeeper Mary Phillips, 34, and the attempted murder of Phillips' 11-year-old daughter, Lacey.

Williams was sentenced to death in 1997 for the Nov. 20, 1994, murder of Stacy Rae Errickson, 22, who Williams kidnapped at gunpoint as she was pumping gas at a Shell Stop gas station in Jacksonville. After taking Errickson to at least 18 ATM machines to withdraw a total of $350 from her account, Williams raped her at a mini-storage facility, then beat and suffocated her to death at Riverview Park in North Little Rock.

As other news accounts have illustrated, the seeming detail of the execution process outlined in the prison logs falls short of providing transparency in the process, beginning with the sometimes difficult and time-consuming task of placing intravenous lines to inject drugs. The logs shroud key parts of the executions, deemed "private" by law though with an allowance for witnesses of some portions of the proceedings. This shroud includes an absence of sound for witnesses because a microphone in the death chamber is turned off.

Nonetheless, the  department does have its time-honored traditions.  So here, for the record, the death logs with last meals, words and key times;  witness lists (state Rep. Kim Hammer of Benton was among the witnesses to both), and "orders of discharge" of the dead men from prison.

UPDATE: Read this op-ed on "Arkansas and America's long dance with death."

Arkansas is a microcosm of what occurs in the very few remaining places that still utilize the death penalty.

Three men, including Lee, are (or were) at least borderline intellectually disabled. One, Kenneth Williams, has an IQ of 70. Another, Bruce Ward, is likely legally insane; he thinks there are "little resurrected dogs" running around the prison and that "evil or demonic forces" are harassing him. Several of these men have (or in the case of Jack Jones, had) a debilitating mental illness, such as paranoid schizophrenia or bipolar disorder; others have brain damage.

As children, these men were raped and had parents who violently abused them. One poured boiling water on her son, another tar. Jason McGehee's father slit the throats of two pet dogs for sport. McGehee eventually got another dog, "Dusty," who he made his constant companion. He dressed the dog up, put the dog's birthday on his calendar, and had the dog sleep on his bed nightly. His stepfather kicked it to death, forcing McGehee to watch. Marcel Williams, executed earlier this week, had a mother who pimped him out for food stamps and lodging starting when he was 9. Like intellectual impairments or severe mental illness, this kind of childhood trauma has profound effects on brain development, functioning and judgment.
Legal representation is also an issue.

According to state and federal court pleadings that Lee's lawyers filed just before his execution, Lee's trial lawyers begged the trial judge — who at the time was having an affair with the trial prosecutor — to let them off the case over a conflict. So did Lee himself. The judge denied their requests. These lawyers conducted no investigation into Lee's life. His state post-conviction attorney abused substances during the hearing and literally uttered the words "blah blah blah" in court.

Eventually, a federal district court suggested that Lee receive a new attorney and a new appeal, and the Arkansas Supreme Court obliged. But his new lawyers fared no better. They missed a filing deadline and had two briefs returned for failure to comport with court rules. The Arkansas Supreme Court referred one attorney to the Committee on Professional Conduct. Lee's federal post-conviction team initially included the drunk lawyer, and later, a man who last year surrendered his law license to "prevent possible harm to clients" because he suffered from bipolar disorder with psychotic features.

What no jury or court ever heard is that Lee likely had an intellectual disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, and significant brain damage. Lawyers first discovered this devastating information this month, just before Lee's execution, when the American Civil Liberties Union intervened and finally looked into Lee's life history.

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