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Alabama killer executed for brutal 1996 driver murder

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Alabama killer executed for brutal 1996 driver murder

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The Alabama killer who was executed Thursday by lethal injection for a 1996 murder remained silent during proceedings at Holman Jail.

Matthew Reeves, 43, was convicted of capital murder for the murder of a driver who drove him in 1996. Willie Johnson, the victim, died of a shotgun blast to the neck during the robbery. He picked up Reeves, 18 at the time, who was on the side of the road. Evidence showed he then went to a party and celebrated the murder with blood on his hands.

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He was pronounced dead at 9:35 p.m. local time. The Associated Press reported that he craned his neck to look around the death chamber several times and grimaced and looked down his left arm toward the IV line. “With his eyes closed and his mouth slightly open, Reeves’ abdomen moved a few times before coming to rest.”

This undated photo provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows death row inmate Matthew Reeves. Reeves was convicted of killing a man during a robbery in 1996. (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP)
(Alabama Department of Corrections via AP)

There was a last-minute fight between his attorneys seeking to stop the execution involving his intellect, his rights under federal disability law, and how the state planned to kill him. Reeves claimed he had an intellectual disability that prevented him from understanding the form offering him the option of choosing nitrogen hypoxia – a method never before used in the United States – over lethal injection, which the The detainee’s lawyers called it “torturing”.

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Alabama killer executed for brutal 1996 driver murder

 | News Today

The sun sets behind Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, as the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether to allow the execution of death row inmate Matthew Reeves, convicted of killing a man during a robbery in 1996. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
(AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Reeves also claimed the state failed to help him understand the form. But the state argued that he was not so disabled that he could not understand the choice. A poor reader and intellectually disabled, Reeves is unable to make such a decision without the assistance that should have been provided under the American With Disabilities Act, his lawyers argued. A prison worker who gave Reeves a form did not offer help to help him figure it out, they said.

With Reeves claiming he would have chosen nitrogen hypoxia over a ‘torturing’ lethal injection had he understood the form, the defense has filed a lawsuit asking a court to stop the lethal injection. U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. blocked the execution plans, ruling that Reeves had a good chance of winning the claim under the Disabilities Act.

A defense expert found Reeves had grade one reading and the language proficiency of someone as young as 4, but the state disagreed that Reeves had a disability that would prevent him from understanding his options.

An Alabama inmate who was put to death by lethal injection last year, Willie B. Smith, unsuccessfully claimed he was intellectually incapable of choosing nitrogen hypoxia.

Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union ambassador to the United States, had sent a letter condemning Johnson’s murder and asking Governor Ivey to block the execution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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