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Alabama halts executions after third failed lethal injection since 2018


The governor of Alabama has called for a pause in executions and ordered a thorough review of the processes involved in state executions, after the second failure of the state lethal injection in two months – and the third since 2018.

Gov. Kay Ivey (right) on Monday asked the state attorney general to withdraw his requests to set execution dates for two prisoners, the only two such cases pending in the state Supreme Court, and to refrain from calling for new executions for other death row inmates, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Kenneth Eugene Smith, 57, was convicted of murdering a preacher’s wife for hire in 1988 and was due to be executed on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. However, the process was halted after officials failed to find a vein through which they could administer the deadly drugs.

Prison staff spent “about an hour” trying to find a vein, trying “several places” on the prisoner’s body, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm told reporters.

“We started our protocol and at 11:21 a.m. [p.m.] we have decided that we will not be able to complete this protocol until midnight, when the death penalty expires,” the commissioner told reporters.

The team had access to a vein, Hamm said, but were unable to establish the second line IV required by the protocol for executions involving lethal injection. Attempts to establish a central line, where a catheter is inserted into a large vein, have also failed, he said.

The same problem arose when prisoner Alan Eugene Miller, 57, was to be put to death in September. His scheduled execution was halted after 2.5 hours when no vein could be found – although the state later blamed the suspension on a flurry of last-minute legal filings over how to execute Miller, who went as far as the United States. Supreme Court.

The execution was halted at the last minute as Ala prison staff failed to find a vein

In 2018, Doyle Hamm’s execution was also halted following problems with the IV line connection, AP reported at the time. Doyle Hamm, whose veins were damaged by disease and drug use, later died in prison of cancer.

In her statement, Ivey denied that law enforcement or corrections officials were to blame for the problems plaguing executions, and said she believes “legal tactics and criminals hijacking the system are stakes”. She added: “For the sake of the victims and their families, we have to get it right.”

The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that reports on capital punishment issues, welcomed the call for a review, but said the inquiry must be fully independent. “The Alabama Department of Corrections has a history of denying and distorting the truth about its execution failures, and it cannot be trusted to meaningfully investigate its own incompetence and wrongdoing” , the organization’s executive director said in a statement on Monday.

Other executions in the state have also been controversial. In July, Joe Nathan James – who shot and killed his former girlfriend in 1994 – was put to death despite the objections of his victim’s family. According to a private autopsy, James’ execution lasted more than three hours and again involved problems in establishing an IV line, the AP reported.

States like Oklahoma have conducted grand jury investigations into the use of lethal injection. One of the most infamous cases, condemned by both President Barack Obama and the United Nations, was the botched execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett. During the execution, Lockett, who had been found unconscious, began to twitch and convulse on the stretcher. After 43 minutes of apparent anguish, he died of a heart attack.

According to a June 2021 Pew study, about 64% of Americans believe the death penalty is morally justified for crimes such as murder. – although a similar number of respondents agreed that punishment does not deter people from committing serious crimes. Seventy-eight percent of people said there was “a certain risk” that an innocent person could be executed.


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