Alabama suspends ongoing capital punishment after failing to find vein to connect IV line
Kenneth Eugene Smith, 57, has become the second member of the club of those who have survived capital punishment in the United States after the execution had begun.
After the last dinner on death row, on Thursday night they transferred him to the living room. He was already strapped on the stretcher and the process to connect his IVs had begun, when the Alabama department of prisons, a few hours after the Supreme Court upheld his execution, decided to cancel the process due to insufficient time before that the order expired at midnight.
He was returned to the cell because there was no way to find a suitable second vein, as required by the procedure, to inject the lethal drug. "We didn't have time to complete the execution so it was called off," said John Hamm, head of the state prison service. They had established a first intravenous line, but were unable to connect the other line.
This is the second time in months that Alabama has stayed an execution for the same reason.
This is the second time Alabama has encountered this situation in a few months. In September, in a practically identical case, the authorities had to cancel the execution of Alana Eugene Miller, already in full swing, for the same reason that they did not have time to comply with the order by not finding a way to connect the intravenous lines . His lawyer, who to this day continues to litigate to avoid Miller's final sentence, assured then that his patronage was "the only survivor of the execution." Smith has joined that club, pending the state's appeal to court for a new date.
In early July, a similar issue made the execution of Joe Nathan James what has been described as torture. They had to cut one of his arms to find access to the veins. This situation has been the basis for several appeals from Alabama maximum sentencers.
The Smith case also has some peculiarity that makes it even more singular. Early Thursday, his lawyer managed to get an appeal court to stop compliance with the ruling due to the problems that had been detected when detecting the veins, which meant suffering "illegal cruelty."
The defense lawyers' objection for "illegal cruelty" was rejected by the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court overturned that decision, opposed by the three progressive justices (Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson), and the governor, Republican Kay Ivey, indicated that the execution should proceed.
So far, a more or less known story. The most unusual thing is the processing of the sentence. The jury found Smith guilty in 1988 as one of the two authors of the death of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett. According to the indictment, her husband, Charles Sennett, a Protestant pastor, paid Smith $1,000 to kill his wife. He had debts and wanted to collect on the woman's insurance.
Smith was found guilty in 1988 with another defendant of the death of a woman
His colleague in wrongdoing, John Forrest Parker, was executed in 2010. Smith's legal workhorse consisted of the argument that, although he was there and staged the scene in the house to make it look like a robbery, he never participated in the robbery. attack the woman
“Kenneht Eugene Smith chose the $1,000 over the life of Elizabeht Dorlene Smith and was found guilty, no question about that. Three decades later, the promise of justice to Elizabeth's family must be fulfilled," Governor Ivey said Thursday as she denied the clemency petition. "Although it has not been possible to comply tonight due to the strategy of postponing or canceling it, the attempt is what should be done," she insisted.
In 1989 the jury did not agree on the sentence that they should impose on Smith
But, back to the trial, there is a clear nuance regarding the governor's argument. On her day, in the sentencing phase (1989), the jury reached a decision of ten votes to two regarding the penalty to be applied. Not being unanimous, this spared the convict the death penalty and, instead, the sentence would be life imprisonment, with no opportunity for review or parole.
This verdict was annulled in 1992 and, in 1996, there was another, by eleven to one, and in this way the life sentence was maintained.
The presiding judge ordered, however, that Smith be sentenced to death, disregarding the jury's decision. This power of the judge is a measure that Alabama prohibited in 2017 and that is not currently allowed in any other state in the country.
From here, Smith's lawyers began a long process to try to annul that decision of the magistrate. Capital punishment has remained in force, even after exposing recent problems with administering the lethal injection. Now they have more arguments, but, as the governor said, the authorities do not seem to be for the job.
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