Alabama temporarily halts executions after failed lethal injections
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey suspended executions in the state, calling for a “thorough review” of the state’s capital punishment system on Monday after a failed third lethal injection.
Ivey had asked state Attorney General Steve Marshall to withdraw motions seeking execution dates for two inmates and requested that the Department of Corrections undertake a review of the state’s execution process, according to a statement from Ivey’s office. Ivey also asked Marshall not to request additional execution dates for other death row inmates until the full review is complete.
The decision follows Alabama’s abandonment of its scheduled execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith before midnight Nov. 17 after the execution team had difficulty finding a vein for the lethal injection.
This was the second instance where the state has been unable to put an inmate to death in the past two months, where similar issues have prevented the state from moving forward with the scheduled execution of Alan Eugene Miller on September 22, and his third instance since 2018.
The state had completed an execution in July, but only after a three-hour delay caused at least in part by the same problem starting an IV line.
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For the two cases in the past two months, appeals filed on behalf of the convicted men have been heard late into the evening. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed Alabama to proceed with each scheduled execution — Miller shortly after 9 p.m. on September 22 and Smith around 10:20 p.m. on November 17 — but the state has been unable to complete the executions. preparations before their death warrants expire. at midnight.
Marshall did not immediately respond if he accepted Ivey’s request. The attorney general “read the governor’s and commissioner’s comments with interest” and “will have more to say about this at a later date,” spokesman Mike Lewis said.
Ivey blamed these legal maneuvers, not state prison employees, for which the state did not execute the men.
“I do not for a second buy into the narrative pushed by activists that these issues are the fault of corrections people or anyone in law enforcement, for that matter. I believe that legal tactics and criminals that hijack the system are at play here,” she said in a statement released Monday morning.
In Smith’s case, the state apparently did not wait for the Supreme Court’s decision to begin preparations. His lawyers say Smith was tied to the stretcher in Holman Correctional Facility’s death chamber for four hours, even as his request for a stay was pending in the 11th US Circuit Court. Smith, 57, was to be executed by lethal injection for the contract murder of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett in 1988.
The state’s scheduled September 22 execution of Miller was halted before midnight when the execution team was unable to establish intravenous access in his arms, hands and right foot for more an hour, based on Miller’s recollections of the night. Miller has since sued the state to prevent a second attempt, and the state reportedly negotiated a settlement with him.
Miller was sentenced to death for the murders of three men in two workplace shootings in Shelby County in 1999.
The governor said she made her decision considering the relatives of the victims who are awaiting execution, seeking closure and justice. “I simply cannot, in good conscience, bring another victim’s family to Holman seeking justice and closure, until I am satisfied that we can carry out the legal sentence,” he said. she said in a statement.
On July 28, the state put Joe Nathan James Jr. to death after a three-hour delay during which the team struggled to find suitable veins for lethal injection, state officials later reported. the prison.
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It remains unclear what else may have happened before the lethal injection was administered: When media witnesses were allowed into the viewing area, James did not open his eyes or show any deliberate movements. He didn’t speak when asked if he had any final words.
ADOC officials later said James was not sedated but could not say if he was “fully conscious” before receiving the lethal dose. The state denied the advertiser’s attempts to review records of James’ execution, including the protocols and qualifications of those responsible for preparing inmates for execution.
James was put to death for the 1994 murder of his former girlfriend, Faith Hall, from Birmingham. Several members of Hall’s family, including her children, asked Ivey to commute the sentence, but she refused, saying she was mindful of the feelings of the victim’s loved ones but “must always discharge of its responsibility to the law, public safety and justice”.
Prison officials argued that the delays were the result of the state’s scrupulous adherence to procedures.
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said ADOC’s review of enforcement proceedings would be far-reaching.
“Everything is on the table – from our legal strategy for handling last-minute calls, to how we train and prepare, to the order and timing of events on execution day, to the staff and equipment involved,” Hamm said in a statement. . “The Alabama Department of Corrections is fully committed to this effort and confident that we can get it right.”
Contributor: The Associated Press