Alabama Calls for Halt to Executions

Political scientist Austin Sarat wants to see the 'insane' method ended across the country
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2022 9:40 AM CST
Alabama Calls Halt to Executions
This photo shows the gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., on Oct. 9, 2014.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has called for a stop to executions in the state after two failed attempts at lethal injections—a problem on display in other states this week. In a Monday release, following the failed executions of Kenneth Smith on Nov. 17 and Alan Miller on Sept. 22, Ivey asks the Department of Corrections to "undertake a top-to-bottom review of the state's execution process, and how to ensure the state can successfully deliver justice going forward," reports. Critics have blamed a lack of training among corrections officials, who've had difficulty in starting the intravenous lines that deliver the lethal three-drug cocktail. But Ivey disagreed, saying "legal tactics and criminals hijacking the system are at play here."

Though groups including the Death Penalty Information Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama Arise, and Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty applauded Ivey's move, they disagreed with her reasoning. The latter three said they were "dismayed that our state won't simply throw out this archaic and unnecessary punishment." At Slate, political scientist Austin Sarat calls for an end to lethal injection and the accompanying "incompetence and cruelty" across the country, citing three botched executions in the past week. "Can you believe this?" Murray Hooper in Arizona asked witnesses after officials spent nearly 30 minutes poking him, Sarat writes. A catheter was ultimately inserted into Hooper's femoral vein, though privacy rules mean it's unclear if a qualified technician was involved.

In Texas, it took an hour and a half to kill Stephen Barbee after a prison rep described issues in finding "functional IV lines." An IV was inserted in Barbee's neck, which "is hardly standard operating procedure," Sarat notes. Finally, in Alabama, Smith's execution was called off after an hour of attempts to set IV lines, including into a central vein. Sarat notes this is "usually done by a surgeon or an interventional radiologist, neither of which would have been present." These cases show "the continued use of lethal injection is simply insane," Sarat writes. He adds training won't fix the issue as "problems are endemic to a method ... dependent on unreliable drugs and drug combinations" and "compounded because state execution protocols do not effectively regulate what happens." (Read more execution stories.)

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