Arkansas death row inmate Kenneth Williams
talks about his mindset in the weeks leading up to his execution date on April 27 in the latest from the Life Inside series, a collaboration between The Marshall Project and Vice.
Williams was sentenced to death for murdering Cecil Boren during a 1999 escape from Cummins, where he was serving a life sentence for the murder of Dominique Hurd. He later confessed to a third murder and was responsible for a fourth death during a traffic accident that happened during his escape.
Some of the prisoners opted out of petitioning for clemency, knowing the board usually issues a denial. They figured they’d save themselves the disappointment. I, on the other hand, saw opportunity. I wanted to appear before the board so I could show them I was no longer the person I once was. God has transformed me, and even the worst of us can be reformed and renewed. Revealing these truths meant more to me then being granted clemency. I'm still going to eventually die someday, but to stand up for God in front of man, that's my victory.
To the families of my victims, to whom I have brought pain, great loss, and suffering, as shallow as “I am sorry for robbing you of your loved one” can sound, I would rather say it, and mean it, than not say it at all.
I was asked by mental health personnel, “Have you been thinking about harming yourself?” I was offended — the train of thought behind the question is to get ahead of anyone thinking of ending their life before the state can do so. They don’t want us to beat them to the punch.
After a death row prisoner has received a date, others who have befriended him make their pitch: Let me have those tennis shoes. Leave me that watch. Let me get your radio. The poor guy may feel like he’s being picked apart. Other things he doesn’t want to give to prisoners, like family pictures or old letters, he can send
home in a box, shortly before he too is sent home in a box.