After Alabama corrections officials botched their third execution in four months on November 17, Gov. Kay Ivey called a hiatus, saying it wasn’t the fault of law enforcement or corrections departments, but ” I believe that legal tactics and criminals hijacking the system are at play here.”
So she’s now gone to the state Supreme Court, asking it to extend the length that an execution warrant is in effect, giving the state more time to kill when the execution team is unable to find a usable vein for its lethal injection drugs.
WSFA-TV reports that in a letter to the court, Ivey argues that “last-minute gamesmanship by death row inmates and their lawyers has consumed a lot of valuable time, preventing the department from carrying out its execution protocol between the conclusion of all legal challenges in the federal courts and the expiration of the death warrant issued by your court.”
If the court agrees, the corrections commissioner would have the authority to set a new execution date immediately if an execution is delayed or called off. Currently, if the execution isn’t underway by midnight of the date in the execution warrant, the state’s high court must issue a new warrant.
The July 28 execution of Joe Nathan James, Jr. was a “long death,” according to Elizabeth Bruenig in a harrowing account in the Atlantic. She writes of the execution team’s several botched attempts to insert catheters into James’s hands and arms, causing severe pain, “further evidence that the IV team was unqualified for the task in a most dramatic way” as the physician who conducted his autopsy told her.
Alan Miller’s attempted execution on September 22 was just as horrific. In another story for the Atlantic, Bruenig, who was at Holman Prison to witness the attempted killing of Miller, interviewed him after it had been called off. He told Bruenig of the constant puncturing by the execution team over the 60-90 minutes they searched for a usable vein. The team eventually left the room without explanation, flipped the gurney Miller was lying on into a vertical position and left him “hanging off the upright gurney, his hands and one foot bleeding from failed IV attempts, waiting to die,” she reported.
(An unnamed source told the Death Penalty Information Center that “Miller had ‘about 18 needle marks’ in his arms and legs after the failed execution.”)
Corrections officials ended their attempt to kill Kenneth Smith on November 17 after trying and failing for over an hour to find a usable vein for its lethal drugs.