Supreme Court paves way for execution of Matthew Reeves in Alabama
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ATMORE, Ala. (AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the state of Alabama to execute an inmate who claims intellectual disability combined with state inattention cost him a chance to avoid lethal injection and choose a new method.
The nation’s highest court has upheld a state appeal that asked judges to lift a lower court order that had previously stopped prison workers from executing Matthew Reeves. Reeves was convicted of murdering a driver who drove him in 1996.
The state said it was preparing to execute Reeves by lethal injection Thursday night.
Reeves claimed the state failed to help him figure out a form that would have allowed him to choose a new method of execution that involved nitrogen.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday considered whether to let Alabama execute a death row inmate who claims intellectual disability combined with state inattention cost him a chance to avoid the injection lethal and to choose a less “torturing” but untested method.
The Alabama attorney general’s office has asked judges to lift a lower court order that prevented prison staff from putting to death Matthew Reeves, who was convicted of murdering a driver who drove him . He celebrated after the murder at a party with blood still on his hands, evidence shows.
The defense argued that the state, by asking the court to overturn an earlier decision so it could execute Reeves, was wrongly trying to challenge a decision it had repeatedly lost in lower courts.
The state said it was preparing to execute Reeves, 43, by lethal injection at Holman Jail in the event the court clears it to proceed as scheduled at 6:00 p.m. CST, but the time of execution passed without any news from the court.
A lawyer for Reeves, John Palombi, said the defense hoped the Supreme Court would not allow the execution.
Reeves had daytime visits and phone calls with his mother and sister and was moved to a holding cell near the death chamber pending the court’s decision, Deputy Commissioner Jeffery Williams said. Reeves, who also spoke with his attorney by phone, declined a final meal, he said.
The state had previously asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a lower court injunction and allow enforcement, but the panel declined on Wednesday and said a judge did not abuse his discretion in deciding that the state could not execute Reeves at all. method other than nitrogen hypoxia, which has never been used. Alabama appealed that decision, sending the case back to the Supreme Court.
Reeves was sentenced to death for the murder of Willie Johnson, who was killed by a shotgun blast to the neck during a robbery in Selma on November 27, 1996, after picking up Reeves and others on the edge of a rural road.
After the dying man was robbed of $360, Reeves, then 18, went to a party where he danced and imitated Johnson’s fatal convulsions, authorities said. A witness said Reeves’ hands were still stained with blood during the celebration, according to a court ruling.
Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union Ambassador to the United States, sent a letter condemning Johnson’s murder and asking Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to block the execution due to the disability claim. intellectual of Reeves. Ivey also received a clemency offer from Reeves’ attorneys but did not issue a decision.
While the courts upheld Reeves’ conviction, the last-minute fight to stop the execution involved his intellect, his rights under federal disability law and how the state planned to kill him.
Alabama switched from the electric chair to lethal injection after 2002, and in 2018 lawmakers approved the use of another method, nitrogen hypoxia, amid injection defense challenges and shortages of chemicals needed for the procedure. The new method of hypoxia, which has not been used in the United States, would cause death by replacing the oxygen the inmate breathes with nitrogen.
Alabama inmates had the chance to sign a form choosing either lethal injection or nitrogen hypoxia as their method of execution in 2018 after lawmakers approved the use of nitrogen. But Reeves was among the inmates who did not fill out the form indicating a preference.
Bad reader, Reeves is intellectually disabled and was not capable of making such a decision without the help 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 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 that Reeves reads at a grade one level and has 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.
Local News Today Headlines Supreme Court paves way for execution of Matthew Reeves in Alabama