Opponents of the death penalty delivered petitions to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office this morning calling for more transparency in how the state conducts executions and for a hold on capital punishment until the process can be reviewed. 

Among other points, the advocates called for the state to “pull back the curtain” on executions so that witnesses and the media can see the full procedure. That request is in response to the state’s last execution, which was delayed about three hours because of problems carrying out the lethal injection.

In Alabama, the viewing window for witnesses and the media begins after the inmate is strapped into the gurney with the IV connections established.

Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty in Alabama calls the state’s lethal injection method secretive and undocumented. The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Alabama Arise, Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, the Civil Rights Memorial of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Death Penalty Action were among the other groups that participated in this morning’s event.

After speaking on the Capitol steps, the groups delivered three petitions to Ivey’s office in the Capitol. Pam Bye, Ivey’s director of constituent services, accepted the petitions and said she would give them to the governor. Bye spoke with members of the group who explained why they were there and the organizations they represented. Bye said Ivey was not in her office.

The petition campaign comes amid new questions about how Alabama carries out capital punishment and on the eve of another scheduled execution, although that is on hold for now.

On Thursday, the state was scheduled to execute Alan Eugene Miller by lethal injection. Miller was convicted of killing three men in a Shelby County workplace shooting spree in August 1999. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Monday putting Miller’s execution on hold. Miller claims he requested execution by nitrogen hypoxia when condemned inmates were allowed to make that choice in 2018. The state says there is no evidence of that, but the judge found Miller’s claim credible.

The Legislature authorized execution by nitrogen hypoxia in 2018 because of lawsuits challenging lethal injection and difficulty in obtaining the drugs used in the procedure. Alabama is one of at least three states to approve nitrogen hypoxia executions but none have been carried out and Alabama has not disclosed how it would work. The idea is that the inmate breathes only nitrogen and dies from oxygen deprivation.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said in an affidavit last week that the ADOC was not ready to use nitrogen hypoxia.

The state’s most recent execution was delayed by about three hours because of problems starting an intravenous line.

Joe Nathan James Jr. was executed July 28 for the 1994 slaying of his ex-girlfriend, Faith Hall. James’ eyes were closed and he appeared unresponsive during the portion of the execution viewed by witnesses and the media, which came after the delay at Holman prison in Atmore. The delay and reports on why it happened have led to criticism of the state’s competency in carrying out executions.

Abraham Bonowitz of the organization Death Penalty Action said today the “pull back the curtain” petition came in response to the execution of James.

“From the time the prisoner enters that death chamber, until they are killed, witnesses must witness all of that,” Bonowitz said. “Because otherwise, how do we know what the government is doing behind closed curtains? So we’re saying pull back the curtains.”

State autopsy records that could shed light on the execution of James will not be available to the public because they will be presented first to a grand jury, a procedure officials say is used for all executions.

Alabama’s execution of Doyle Lee Hamm was halted in 2018 after prison staff took hours trying to establish an IV line. Hamm later died in prison from cancer.

This story will be updated.



wed sept 21 2022 3:23pm CDT mgy REmbr… G is, as G can only BE. GOOD

If I didn’t define myself, I’d be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. audre lorde

amen. so BE it. laff THRU it…yes. in Time.

In Memory of Akiriyiah (Kirah) McClellan
June 22, 2006 – Feb 16, 2022