Alabama prisoner’s execution stayed by appellate court; the state has appealed

Court of Appeal ordered stay on Thursday night scheduled execution An Alabama inmate convicted in the 1988 murder-for-hire of a preacher’s wife is appealing the state’s Supreme Court to go ahead with lethal injection.

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed its execution. Kenneth Eugene Smith57, after raising concerns about problems with venous access in the state’s last two scheduled lethal injections. The state immediately appealed the order.

Prosecutors said that Smith was one of two men who were paid $1,000 each to kill Elizabeth Sennett on behalf of her husband, who was in debt and wanted to collect on insurance.

Sennett was found dead on March 18, 1988, at the couple’s home on Coon Dog Cemetery Road in Colbert County, Alabama. The coroner testified that the 45-year-old woman had been stabbed eight times in the chest and once on either side of the neck. Her husband, Charles Sennett Sr., who was pastor of the Westside Church of Christ, killed himself a week after his wife’s death, according to court documents, when the murder investigation began to focus on him as a suspect. did.

Kenneth Eugene Smith

Alabama Department of Corrections

Alabama will proceed with the execution if the Supreme Court lifts the stay before the midnight deadline for the execution to begin.

Smith’s final appeal focused on the state’s difficulties with intravenous lines in the last two scheduled lethal injections. One execution was carried out after a delay, and the other was called off as the state faced a midnight deadline to achieve the execution. Smith’s attorneys also raised the issue that judges are no longer permitted to sentence an inmate to death if a jury recommends a life sentence.

John Forrest Parker, the second man convicted of the murder, was executed in 2010. to death.

According to appellate court documents, Smith told police in a statement that it was “John and I agreed to commit the murder” and that he took items from the house to make it look like a burglary. Smith’s defense at the trial said he participated in the attack but did not intend to kill her, according to court documents.

Hours before he was to be executed, the prison system said Smith met with his lawyer and family members, including his wife. He ate cheese curls and drank water, but when he was offered prison breakfast, he refused.

The 11th Circuit issued a stay because Smith’s attorneys pointed to problems in establishing venous access during two previous executions in Alabama. US District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. denied Smith’s request for a stay on Thursday, but Smith’s attorneys appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit.

execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. The delay was caused by problems setting up an IV line, leading an anti-death penalty group to claim that the execution was wrongful. In September, the state ended scheduled executions. alan miller Because of the difficulty of 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 declaring him to stay for the night. Prison officials maintain the delay was because the state was meticulously following its procedures.

The state argued for allowing the execution to proceed, saying that Smith was in a different situation than Miller, who was obese.

The US Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request to review the constitutionality of Smith’s death sentence.

Smith was initially convicted in 1989, and a jury voted 10-2 to recommend the death penalty, which was imposed by a judge. His conviction was overturned on appeal in 1992. He was again indicted and convicted in 1996. This time, the jury recommended a life sentence by a vote of 11–1, but a judge overruled the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Smith to death.

In 2017, Alabama became the last state to end the practice of eliminating jury sentencing recommendations in death row cases, but the change was not retroactive and therefore did not affect death row inmates like Smith.

The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that advocates for inmates, said Smith has become the first state inmate to be sentenced by judicial override after ending the practice.

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