Alabama governor orders temporary moratorium on executions after third failed lethal injection

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey called for a moratorium on the death penalty and ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s capital punishment system Monday after an unprecedented incident. third failed lethal injection,

Ivey’s office issued a statement saying that he had both asked Attorney General Steve Marshall to withdraw his demand for execution dates for the two inmates and requested that the Department of Corrections conduct a full review of the state’s execution process.

Ivey also requested that Marshall not seek additional execution dates for any other death row inmates until the review is complete.

Kenneth Eugene Smith

Alabama Department of Corrections

The move followed Thursday’s botched execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith, the second instance of the state being unable to execute an inmate in the past two months and the third since 2018. State completed an execution in JulyBut only a three-hour delay caused the IV line to start, at least partly because of the same problem.

Denying that prison officials or law enforcement are to blame for the problems, Ivey said “legal tactics and criminals hijacking the system are at play here.”

“For the sake of the victims and their families, we’ve got to get this right,” she said.

Corrections Commissioner Jon Hamm said the department is fully committed to the review and is “confident we can get this right.”

“Everything is on the table, from our legal strategy in dealing with last-minute appeals, to how we train and prepare, to the sequence and timing of events on the day of execution, to the personnel and equipment involved,” Hamm said in a statement released. is on.” Through the Office of the Governor.

Marshall, the state’s top prosecutor, did not immediately say whether he would agree to Ivey’s request. The attorney general “read the governor’s and commissioner’s comments with interest” and “will have more to say at a later date,” spokesman Mike Lewis said.

Alabama Arise, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of the poor, said Marshall should agree to a moratorium and urged legislators to “do their part to reduce the unfairness of Alabama’s death penalty system”. did.

The Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death-penalty group with a large database on the death penalty, said that no state other than Alabama has had to stop an execution in progress since 2017, when Ohio executed Alva Campbell. The lethal injection was stopped because the workers could not be found. a vein.

The organization’s executive director, Robert Dunham, said that Ivey was right to demand the investigation and pause, but that any review of the system should be done by someone other than the state prison system. While Ivey blamed defense efforts for the execution failures, Dunham said that his “willful blindness” to the prison system’s problems was part of the problem.

“The Alabama Department of Corrections has a history of denying and bending the truth about its own execution failures, and it cannot be trusted to meaningfully investigate its own incompetence and wrongdoing,” he said.

Earlier this year, after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee halted a lethal injection in April after he learned the drugs weren’t necessarily tested, he ordered an independent investigation and by the end of the year all Stopped the executions.

The execution of Alabama’s Joe Nathan James Jr. took several hours to begin in July because of problems setting up an IV line, leading an anti-death-penalty group to claim the US Forensic Justice Initiative is withdrawing. execution failed,

In September, the state ended scheduled executions. allen eugene miller Because of the difficulty in accessing his veins. Miller said in a court filing that prison staff pricked him with needles for more than an hour, and at one point hung him vertically on a gurney before announcing that he had to stop. Jail officials have said that the delay is a result of meticulous procedures followed by the state.

Ivey asked the state to withdraw proposals seeking execution dates for Miller and James Edward Barber, the only two death row inmates with such requests before the Alabama Supreme Court.

In 2018, Alabama called off the execution of Doyle Haim because of problems connecting an intravenous line. His attorney said Haim had damaged nerves due to lymphoma, hepatitis and past drug use. Hamm later died in prison of natural causes.

Bernard Harcourt, an attorney who represented Hamm for years, said that Alabama should have implemented a stay of execution after Hamm’s failed execution for the benefit of all.

“As a political matter, Gov. Ivey only mentioned the victims, but these wrongfully executed men, their families, friends, ministers and lawyers, and all the men and women who worked and were in prison in these failed attempts. The trauma of these executions spreads widely to all they touch,” Harcourt said.

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