Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey called for a pause in executions and ordered a “top-to-bottom” overhaul of the state’s death penalty system Monday after an unprecedented third botched lethal injection.
Ivey’s office released a statement saying it had asked Attorney General Steve Marshall to withdraw proposals for execution dates for the two inmates and asked that the Department of Corrections conduct a full review of the state’s execution process.
Ivey also requested that Marshall not request additional execution dates for any other death row inmates until the review is complete.
The move follows the unfinished execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith on Thursday, the second time the state has been unable to execute an inmate in the past two months and the third since 2018. The state completed the execution in July, but only after a three-hour delay caused at least in part by the same IV trigger problem lines.
Ivey denies that prison officials or law enforcement are to blame for the problems, saying “legal tactics and criminals hijacking the system are at play here.”
“For the sake of the victims and their families, we have to get it right,” she said.
Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the department is fully committed to the review and is “confident we can get it right.”
“Everything is on the table — from our legal strategy for dealing with last-minute appeals, to how we train and prepare, to the order and timing of execution day events, to staffing and equipment,” Hamm said in a statement. through the governor’s office.
Marshall, the attorney general, did not immediately say whether he would agree to Ivey’s request. The attorney general “read with interest the comments from the governor and the commissioner” 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 the moratorium and called on lawmakers to “do their part to reduce the inequity of Alabama’s death penalty system.”
The Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group with a large database of executions, said no state other than Alabama has had to halt an execution in progress since 2017, when Ohio halted Alva Campbell’s lethal injection because workers could not find a vein.
The organization’s executive director, Robert Dunham, said Ivey was right to push for an investigation and a pause, but any review of the system must be done by someone other than the state prison system. While Ivey blamed defense efforts for the execution’s failures, Dunham said part of the problem was her “willful blindness” to the prison system’s woes.
“The Alabama Department of Corrections has a history of denying and bending the truth about its failures to execute and cannot be trusted to meaningfully investigate its own incompetence and wrongdoing,” he said.
Earlier this year, after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee halted lethal injection in April after learning that drugs were not tested as required, he ordered an independent investigation and suspended all executions until the end of the year.
The Execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. in Alabama in July took several hours to begin because of problems setting up an IV line, leading the anti-death penalty group Reprieve US Forensic Justice Initiative to say the execution was botched.
In September, the state called off the planned execution of Alan Eugene Miller due to difficulties accessing his veins. Miller said in a court filing that prison staff jabbed him with needles for more than an hour and at one point left him hanging vertically in a gurney before calling it quits. Prison officials said the delays were the result of the state scrupulously following procedures.
Ivey has asked the state to withdraw motions seeking execution dates for Miller and James Edward Barber, the only two inmates on death row with such requests before the Alabama Supreme Court.
Alabama revoked the execution of Doyle Hamm in 2018 due to problems with connecting an intravenous line. Hamm had damaged veins from lymphoma, hepatitis and a history of drug use, his lawyer said. Hamm later died in prison of natural causes.
Alabama should have instituted a moratorium on executions for the benefit of all after Hamm’s botched execution, said Bernard Harcourt, a lawyer who represented Hamm for years.
“As a matter of policy, Governor Ivey mentions only the victims, but these botched executions have been an ordeal for the men on the stretcher, their families, friends, ministers and lawyers, and all the men and women working at the prison and involved.” in these failed attempts. The trauma of these executions extends widely to everyone they touch,” Harcourt said.