Alabama to conduct first lethal injection since execution review

ATMOR, Alabama. — (TodayNews) — Alabama plans to execute a prisoner Thursday for beating a woman in 2001 as the state seeks its first lethal injection since a hiatus in executions due to a string of IV problems.

James Barber, 64, is scheduled to be executed Thursday night at a prison in southern Alabama. This is the first execution planned in the state since Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey suspended executions in November to conduct an internal review.

Ivey ordered a revision after two lethal injections were canceled due to difficulty getting IVs into the veins of convicted men. Advocacy groups said that the third execution, carried out after a delay due to problems with intravenous injection, was unsuccessful, a claim contested by the state.

“Given Alabama’s recent history of botched executions, that the lethal injection of James Barber should happen is mind-boggling,” said Maya Foa, director of anti-death penalty group Reprieve. “Three consecutive executions in Alabama last year went horribly wrong, yet officials say there were “no flaws” found in their execution process.

Barber was convicted of beating 75-year-old Dorothy Epps in 2001. Prosecutors said Barber, a handyman who knew Epps’ daughter, confessed to killing Epps with a hammer and fled with her purse. The jury voted 11-1 to recommend the death sentence, which the judge handed down.

Barber’s lawyers have asked federal courts to block the lethal injection, citing the state’s past troubles. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stop the execution on Wednesday. The judges noted that the state had reviewed the procedures and wrote that “Barber’s assertion that the same pattern will continue” is “purely speculative.”

Barber can appeal to the US Supreme Court.

“Defendants failed to administer lethal injection constitutionally not once, not twice, but three times in a row,” Barber’s attorneys wrote in a filing with the 11th Circuit.

The Alabama Attorney General’s office urged the courts to continue with the execution of the sentence. The State argued that the Department of Corrections made a good-faith effort to correct any issues that arose and provided documentation showing that the people responsible for installing IVs were licensed.

“Mrs. Epps and her family have waited twenty-two years for justice,” the Alabama attorney general said in a statement.

The State conducted an internal review of the procedures. Ivey turned down requests from several groups, including a group of religious leaders, to follow the example of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and authorize an independent review of the state’s enforcement procedures.

One of the changes Alabama made after its internal review was to give the state more time to execute the sentence. The Alabama Supreme Court waived its usual midnight deadline to begin executions to give the state more time to establish drip lines and hear last-minute legal appeals. The state has until 6 a.m. Friday to begin executing Barber.

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