Alabama is delaying the execution of more death row inmates after the governor ordered an investigation into the state’s lethal injection protocol. But Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement that the Alabama Department of Corrections would investigate itself was in stark contrast to how and why other states with a governor’s moratorium are handling their crises.
Ivey announced the halt Monday morning after two failed execution attempts and ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s execution process. “Governor Ivey, in collaboration with Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm, is asking the Department of Corrections to conduct a top-down review of the state’s enforcement process and how to ensure the state can successfully administer justice,” he added. a news release from Ivey’s office said.
She continued: “For the sake of the victims and their families, we need to get this right. I do not for one second buy the narrative pushed by activists that these problems are the fault of the people in Corrections or anyone in law enforcement for that matter. I believe legal tactics and criminals hijacking the system are at play here,” Ivey said in a statement.
“I am devoting all necessary support and resources to the Department to ensure that those responsible for the most heinous crimes in our society are justly punished. I simply cannot in good conscience bring another victim’s family to Holman seeking justice and closure until I am confident that we can execute a legal judgment.”
Read more: Gov. Kay Ivey orders moratorium on executions in Alabama
California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Oregon have implemented governor-imposed moratoriums on executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The federal government also imposed a moratorium on executions last year, pending review.
When asked who would conduct the review at ADOC, a spokesman said those details were not yet available.
There are currently 166 inmates on Alabama’s death row.
There are 27 states with the death penalty, including the federal government and the US military.
The announcement comes after several high-profile problems with lethal injection in Alabama this year. First, there were questions about the execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. in July. and whether he was sedated before the lethal drugs were administered. In September, the state failed to execute Alan Eugene Miller after prison officials were unable to start an intravenous line for a lethal injection. In November, a similar situation arose with Kenneth Eugene Smith, and the execution was called off again just before midnight.
Here’s how the process has worked in other states that have a moratorium but still have the death penalty.
Tennessee and the federal government’s investigation
Earlier this year, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced a moratorium similar to the one in Alabama, but called for an independent investigation into the state’s implementation protocol. Neither the governor nor the attorney general’s office has predicted when foreclosures will resume.
In a press release, Lee announced that the state will hire a former U.S. attorney to “conduct a third-party review of Tennessee’s execution process after corrections officials failed to test execution drugs for bacterial endotoxins prior to execution,” according to the death penalty information. The center informed. Lee also said the state would not proceed with the five remaining executions scheduled for 2022.
“I review every death penalty case and believe it is an appropriate punishment for heinous crimes,” Lee said in a news release. “However, the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and I expect the Tennessee Department of Corrections to leave no doubt that procedures are properly followed.”
DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham said the Alabama investigation must be conducted independently. “As Tennessee Governor Bill Lee understood when he ordered an investigation into the failure of the implementation protocol in his state, that investigation must be independent. The Alabama Department of Corrections has a history of denying and bending the truth about its enforcement failures and cannot be trusted to meaningfully investigate its own incompetence and wrongdoing,” he said.
“Legal efforts to ensure that ADOC executioners do not torture inmates to death are not—and never have been—the cause of ADOC’s serial failures to timely establish execution IV lines. Nor are they the cause of ADOC’s evasiveness, lack of transparency, and repeated misrepresentations to the media and public.”
Meanwhile, at the federal level, the death penalty is also receiving an internal review. That ban began in 2021, when U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a moratorium on federal executions while a review of Justice Department policies and procedures took place.
“Serious concerns have been raised about the continued use of the death penalty across the country, including the arbitrariness of its application, the disproportionate impact on people of color, and the alarming number of acquittals in capital and other serious cases,” Garland wrote in an open interview. letter.
The announcement comes after a series of changes at the federal department, including a new protocol for administering lethal injections at the federal Bureau of Prisons using the drug pentobarbital. The investigation will be led by the deputy chief prosecutor.
California, Pennsylvania, Oregon: States that have halted the death penalty without trial
Oregon hasn’t executed anyone on death row in a quarter century, according to Oregon Live. In 2011, then-Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber halted all executions in the state, saying, according to DPIC, “I refuse to continue to be a part of this compromised and unjust system; and I will allow no more executions as long as I am governor.”
The stay of executions is different from Alabama’s because it came after years of no executions at all.
When she took office in 2015, Gov. Kate Brown upheld the state’s moratorium on executions, according to Oregon Live. Newly elected Governor Tina Kotek said that if elected, she would continue the ban.
In 2019, Oregon Live reported that the state legislature passed a bill that narrowed the aggravated murder statute and limited the types of killings that can be punished with the death penalty. And in 2020, the state began liquidating its death row.
In 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf declared a moratorium, halting the process of executing inmates who had been sentenced to death. According to a statement on the government website, the moratorium was issued “until the government receives and reviews the upcoming report of the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Commission on the Death Penalty…”
That report came out in 2018 and found that “it was not possible to determine whether due process protections are sufficient to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are not sentenced to death” and that if the state executed prisoners it would “be an option or would more factually innocent persons could have been convicted and executed.”
The report continued: “Because the severely punitive alternative of life in prison without parole is available, the Subcommittee on Policy concludes that there is an alternative to the death penalty that would adequately ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological concerns.”
The report also found “potential practical problems” with the state’s current lethal injection protocol. The panel recommended that the lethal injection protocol be made public, applied in accordance with the law, and “use an appropriate and effective drug selected by qualified experts to be performed humanely and ethically.”
The state has executed only three inmates since 1978, with the last being in 1999. Again, unlike Alabama, the state did not actively use the death penalty before the moratorium.
Incoming Gov. Josh Shapiro has not announced whether he will keep the moratorium in place, but told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that he will review the “legality of how” Wolf structured it. “But sure, I have a long history of not using the death penalty. And I think that approach will continue as governor,” he told the paper.
In a statement at the time of the announcement, Wolf said the state’s death penalty is “a flawed system that has proven to be an endless cycle of litigation as well as ineffective, unjust and expensive.” Wolf said in a statement that he wants to prevent the execution of someone who has been wrongly convicted.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium in 2019. According to NPR, the action merely suspended executions in the state while Newsom holds office. He also closed the state execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.
“Our death penalty system has failed — in every respect –,” Newsom said in a statement. “It provided no public safety benefit or deterrent value. It wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. But above all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible, and irreparable in the event of human error.” In January 2022, Newsom announced that California’s Death Row would be dismantled within two years, according to DPIC.