Alabama Suspends Executions After Lethal Injection Problems

Alabama Suspends Executions After Lethal Injection Problems: Following the inability of prison officials to reach the veins of two death row inmates, Governor Kay Ivey issued an order to temporarily halt any executions.

After Problems With Lethal Injections, Alabama Stops Putting People to Death

Following a string of issues with the delivery of lethal injection chemicals this year, Alabama’s governor issued an executive order on Monday stopping all executions in the state and called for a review of Alabama’s execution procedure.

Republican Governor Kay Ivey decided after hearing reports from the jail that they had been unable to implant one of two intravenous lines into Kenneth Eugene Smith before the midnight deadline on the execution warrant. It was the second time in less than two months that complications in reaching a death row inmate’s veins had resulted in the state of Alabama canceling an execution.

The victims and their families deserve better, Ms. Ivey said in a statement. She went on to say, “I simply cannot, in good faith, send another victim’s family to Holman seeking justice and closure until I am convinced that we can carry out the legal punishment,” referring to the William C. Holman jail where the execution chamber is located.

Ms. Ivey stated that she had instructed the state’s attorney general to cease seeking any more execution dates for Alabama in light of the ongoing inquiry. It wasn’t known if Attorney General Steve Marshall would abide by the demand. Attorney General John Marshall, said to his spokesperson Mike Lewis, read the governor’s remarks “with interest” and will “have more to say on this at a later point.”

Though she blamed “legal maneuvers and criminals hijacking the system” for the errors, Ms. Ivey said she did not believe anybody in law enforcement was at fault and ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the prison’s execution protocols.

The attorneys for those on death row typically file a flurry of appeals right before execution to have it stayed or reversed. For the two most recent executions in Alabama, the Supreme Court’s review of the appeals lasted well into the night, leaving less time for the executions to be carried out before the death warrants expired at midnight.

Attempts to reach veins have lasted several hours in some cases, which has prompted criticism from defense attorneys and prisoner groups.

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Alabama Suspends Executions After Lethal Injection Problems
A lawyer representing death row inmates who do not practice in Alabama said, “It was Alabama’s agonizing and unsuccessful endeavor to get IV access that led them — drove them to call off” the executions.

She pointed out that seasoned attorneys regularly take on death row cases as the execution date draws closer, and that they often uncover new issues that the original attorneys failed to consider, resulting in favorable rulings that put a hold on the execution.

Ms. Levin said that it would be irresponsible to criticize measures that may help prevent the execution of innocent persons.

Dr. Leonidas G. Koniaris, a professor of surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine and an authority on fatal injections, has stated that several factors, including a prisoner’s weight, prior drug usage, and age, can make it difficult to access a person’s veins. Death row inmates in Alabama had an average age of 55.

Dr. Koniaris noted that the process may be made more difficult by the prisoner’s shackles and the fact that certain persons naturally have smaller-than-average veins. Inmates may have a central line inserted into their neck, chest, or groin if prison personnel are unable to find a vein.

The execution of Joe Nathan James in July brought renewed attention to Alabama’s lethal injection procedures. A secret autopsy revealed that the death chamber personnel cut into one of Miller’s arms in a so-called “cutdown” in an attempt to reach his veins. In September, executioners were unable to place an intravenous line into Miller’s veins before the death warrant expired.

Since only a small number of persons have survived a fatal injection execution attempt, Mr. Miller and Mr. Smith were both restored to their cells. In a similar instance in 2018, Doyle Lee Hamm in the state was able to survive the incident and eventually pass away in jail of natural causes, proving that prison personnel was unable to implant a line into him.

In charge of the state’s prison system, Commissioner John Q. Hamm has expressed his support for the inquiry and stated that “everything is on the table,” including the state’s response to last-minute appeals, execution schedules, and “equipment involved.”

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