An Alabama inmate who killed an elderly woman in 2001 this morning became the first to be executed in the state since lethal injections were suspended over a string of botched executions.
James Barber, 64, was executed at 1:56 am at William Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, just hours after the Supreme Court refused a stay of execution.
In the hours leading up to the execution, Barber had 22 visitors and two phone calls, a prison spokesman said. He ate a final meal of hash browns, western omelets, hot sausage, and toast.
Barber was convicted and sentenced to death for killing 75-year-old Dorothy Epps in a robbery at her home in Harvest, Alabama, on the night of May 20, 2001.
Prosecutors said Barber, a handyman, confessed to killing Epps with a claw hammer and fled with her purse. The jury voted 11-1 to recommend a death sentence, which a judge handed down.
James Barber, 64, was sentenced to death for killing 75-year-old Dorothy Epps in a robbery at her home in Harvest, Alabama, on the night of May 20, 2001
The execution was carried out after the Supreme Court refused to intervene at the last moment.
It is the state’s first scheduled execution since Gov. Kay Ivey paused it in November to conduct an internal review after two lethal injections were canceled due to difficulties getting IVs into the sentenced men’s veins.
Lawyers for inmate Alan Miller said prison staff jailed him with needles for over an hour when they tried unsuccessfully to connect an IV tube to him and once left him hanging vertically on a stretcher during his aborted execution in September.
State officials called off Kenneth Eugene Smith’s execution in November after failing to connect the second of two required wires.
Pressure groups claimed a third execution, carried out in July after a delay due to IV problems, fell through due to multiple attempts to connect the line, a claim the state has denied.
Ivey lifted the suspension after the Department of Corrections hired medical staff, procured new equipment and conducted rehearsals for executions.
The state also extended the time allowed for an execution to be carried out before the warrant expired.
Barber argued before the United States Court of Appeals that his execution should be halted because he was at significant risk of serious harm and “torture” under current protocols. The court denied that appeal on Wednesday.
Barber’s execution came hours after Oklahoma’s execution of Jemaine Cannon, who stabbed a Tulsa woman with a butcher knife in 1995 after escaping from a prison labor center.
Barber was executed by lethal injection at 1:56 a.m. at the William Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, hours after the Supreme Court denied a stay of execution
‘Woman. Epps and her family have waited twenty-two years for justice,” the Alabama attorney general’s office wrote in a court filing.
Alabama Correctional Commissioner John Hamm said the prison system has expanded its pool of medical professionals, ordered new equipment and conducted additional rehearsals.
Barber’s lawyers argued that his execution “will likely be botched in the same way as those of the previous three.”
The Supreme Court denied Barber’s request for a stay without comment. Judge Sonia Sotomayor disagreed with the decision in a letter joined by Judge Elena Kagan and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
“The Eighth Amendment requires more than just the state’s word that this time will be different.” “The court should not allow Alabama to test the effectiveness of its internal review by using Barber as its “guinea pig,”” wrote Sotomayor.
The Alabama Attorney General had asked the Supreme Court to proceed with the execution.
The state wrote that the previous executions were canceled due to a combination of events — including health issues affecting individual inmates and last-minute lawsuits brought by inmates — that drastically reduced the amount of time for ADOC officials to carry out the executions.
“Dorothy Epps, Smith’s victim, has survivors who have waited too long for justice,” the office added.
One of the changes Alabama made after the internal review was to give the state more time to conduct executions.
The Alabama Supreme Court scrapped the customary midnight deadline for initiating an execution to give the state more time to set up an IV line and file a last-minute appeal.
After several lethal injections have been botched in recent years, legal and ethical issues surrounding the death penalty have circulated in the United States. The state governments and the federal government also had difficulties in procuring the necessary medicines.
The number of executions in the US has fallen dramatically since 1999, when a record 98 executions were carried out. The death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a total of 78 death row inmates have been executed in the past five years.
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