The state is rushing through the killings because its stock of a sedative used in lethal injections will expire at the end of the month. In photo: Prisoners on death row in Arkansas. Photograph: (AFP)
The southern state of Arkansas executed two inmates late Monday, the first double execution in the United States in 17 years, according to the Arkansas attorney general.
Leslie Rutledge said that Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, both sentenced to death in the 1990s, were executed by lethal injection after higher courts rejected their final legal appeals.
Jack Jones was executed after the US Supreme Court rejected an 11th-hour request from his attorneys asking the justices to reconsider a procedural issue from his trial.
Arkansas had planned to put eight convicted murderers to death in 11 days -- a record, had it been carried out -- but four have won reprieves.
Marcel Williams was scheduled to die later Monday night. If the execution goes ahead, it would be the first double execution in the United States since 2000.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has said the accelerated execution timetable is necessary as the state's stock of a sedative used in lethal injections will expire at the end of the month.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement that the daughters of Jones's victim, 34-year-old Mary Phillips, had finally received justice.
"Mary was performing her job as a bookkeeper in Bald Knob on June 6, 1995, when she was strangled to death with a coffeepot cord while her 11-year-old daughter Lacey clung to life a few feet away after being choked and beaten," Rutledge said.
"The Phillips family has waited far too long to see justice carried out, and I pray they find peace tonight."
The execution process began at 7:06 pm (0006 GMT) and Jones was pronounced dead at 7:20 pm, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper cited Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves as saying.
Jones was calm as he made a rambling final statement while strapped to the gurney, saying he tried to become a better person and apologizing to Phillips' daughter Lacey, the paper said, citing media witnesses in the death chamber.
Statement written by Jack Jones just before his death. pic.twitter.com/5iSxReEkUk— julieturkewitz (@julieturkewitz) April 25, 2017
Last Thursday, Ledell Lee was put to death in the state's first execution in more than a decade.
Many of the legal clashes over Arkansas's plan focus on use of the drug midazolam, a sedative meant to render a condemned person unconscious before other drugs induce death.
Critics say it does not always adequately sedate prisoners, potentially causing undue suffering.
And McKesson Medical-Surgical, a distributor for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, had asked courts to ban the use of a paralytic it sells, vecuronium bromide, in the chemical cocktail used to kill prisoners.