State of Alabama Resumes Executions

A.W. Naves
Lethal injection unit at Holman Correction Facility (circa 2002)Photo byADOC

In November, after three botched lethal injections, the State of Alabama was forced to halt all capital punishments previously scheduled while an internal review was completed. On Friday, Governor Kay Ivey announced that the state is now prepared to resume executions after a three-month hiatus.

According to the letter sent to Ivey by John Hamm, Alabama Corrections Commissioner, he has advised that all issues identified in the internal review have been addressed to his satisfaction and that his staff can now resume executions without further issues. Hamm has indicated that the prison system will be employing additional medical staff, purchasing new equipment, and holding rehearsals for the execution procedure to ensure all goes smoothly.

Execution teams will also be allowed more time to complete their responsibilities per a ruling handed down by the Alabama Supreme Court last month. This ruling will allow the state additional time to carry out a death sentence by making the warrants that authorize executions valid for more than 24 hours. The court made this change per a request from Governor Ivey.

In a letter to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Governor Ivey had this to say:

“Far too many Alabama families have waited for far too long, often for decades, to obtain justice for the loss of a loved one and to obtain closure for themselves. This brief pause in executions was necessary to make sure that we can successfully deliver that justice and that closure.”

Marshall has since filed a motion with the Alabama Supreme Court to request that a date of execution be set for James Barber, a man sentenced to death for the 2001 murder of 75-year-old Dorothy Epps. Marshall has also indicated that he plans to return to business as usual when it comes to other pending executions in Alabama without further delay.

“In Alabama, we recognize that there are crimes so heinous, atrocious and cruel ... that the only just punishment is death.” – Alabama AG Marshall

Critics say that the internal review completed by the state prison system should have been completed by an external source. Furthermore, there has been little transparency about the findings noted in the review. While the governor’s office released Hamm’s response to the review, it has not made the details of the review's findings public.

Despite requests from various leaders of faith-based organizations, attorneys, and anti-capital punishment groups, Ivey refused to allow an independent review of Alabama’s execution procedures. The ACLU has been adamant that they believe it is unreasonable to believe that the state is capable of policing its execution procedures considering its history of failures.

Likewise, Christine Freeman, Executive Director of the Middle District of Alabama Federal Defender Program, has called Ivey’s refusal to allow an external review “disappointing, but not surprising.”

It is not known if public demands for the actual review findings or an independent review will ever be answered. What is certain is that the State of Alabama intends to resume pursuing execution dates for the inmates currently awaiting lethal injection immediately.

Currently, there are 161 men and 5 women sitting on death row in Alabama prisons.

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Freelance Writer. Author. Alabamian. I write about true crimes, unsolved cases, and macabre mysteries.

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