The State of Alabama executed Jason Williams today, using a new drug protocol that officials hastily substituted and refused to disclose after their supply of lethal-injection drugs was confiscated by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley denied clemency despite the unprecedented lack of transparency and allegations of wrongdoing by state officials and ignored compelling evidence about Mr. Williams’s background.
The State of Alabama requested an execution date for Jason Williams after its supply of sodium thiopental, one of three drugs used in lethal injection, expired. It illegally obtained a supply of the drug from Tennessee. EJI filed a complaint with the Department of Justice and the DEA seized the drugs.
Alabama officials then changed the execution drugs and protocol without initially disclosing it to the Alabama Supreme Court, counsel for Mr. Williams, or the public. Most states’ execution protocols are readily available to the public in compliance with laws requiring transparency from public officials.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley refused to intervene today despite evidence presenting a compelling picture of Jason Williams’s background that neither his jury nor the sentencing judge had seen.
That evidence, presented by EJI in a request for clemency, showed that Mr. Williams was deeply remorseful for this tragic offense, which occurred when he was a 23-year-old with no criminal history who had ingested a large quantity of LSD and crack cocaine.
State experts testified that the crime would not have happened but for the drugs. Mr. Williams’s drug dependency started at age 10, when he began using marijuana to cope with brutal beatings by his father that left scars and bruises on his body. His teachers saw the marks but did nothing.
At 12, he was sent to the notorious Bethel Children’s Home in Mississippi, where for nearly a year he was subjected to severe abuse, required to work at hard labor for eight hours a day, and was permitted to sleep only four or five hours a night. He was repeatedly beaten with a switch for so long that his legs went numb. The home was later shut down after investigations revealed rampant criminal child abuse and neglect by its staff.
At 18, Jason Williams learned that his mother was actually his aunt, who took him in after his biological mother left him with a babysitter and never came back for him. Betrayed by everyone he trusted, Jason attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest and nearly died; the next year, he deliberately overdosed on cocaine. His drug addiction escalated, leading to the crime.
This story of extraordinary abuse and trauma was not told by Mr. Williams’s lawyers at trial, so that the jury and judge deciding his sentence did not have a complete picture of the background leading to this offense. Despite learning about the peaceful, hardworking, and respectful man Mr. Williams became in prison, the governor denied clemency, and Jason Williams was put to death.