Alabama Halts Executions

Alabama Halts ExecutionsAlabama Halts Executions Until Congress Approves Execution Process

Alabama halts executions after an emergency motion from United States District Judge, W. Keith Watkins, who acted upon a 2011 lawsuit from death row inmate Tommy Arthur. Arthur was convicted of murdering Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals in 1982. Arthur’s execution has been postponed six times. The state decided “the best course of action is to stay decisions on the lethal injection cases across the board” until the United States Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the lethal injection protocol. District Judge Watkins noted that six other Alabama death row inmates had filed similar lawsuits.

At the heart of Tommy Arthur’s lawsuit is that lethal injection violates the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment that forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Arthur also cited the Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees equal protection. The controversial drug that has been implicated in botched executions is called midazolam and is a sedative that is claimed to not protect the condemned from the two drugs that are used to complete the execution.

The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to begin arguments regarding the constitutionality of lethal injections in the case of Richard Glossip, a death row inmate in Oklahoma. Glossip was twice convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his boss and has been championed by famed anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean. The US Supreme Court also ordered the postponement of the execution of three Oklahoma inmates. Alabama halts executions because its lethal injection protocol is so close to that of Oklahoma.

The reason the constitutionality of lethal injections is being questioned now is because of botched executions in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Arizona. There have not been lethal injection executions in Alabama since 2013 because of a shortage of the drugs used in this process. The Alabama state Supreme Court stopped the execution of William “Bill” Kuenzel who was sentenced to die in 1988 for the 1987 shooting death of a convenience store clerk in Sylacauga. The scheduled executions of Gregory Hunt and Robin Myers have also been stayed in Alabama for now.

While Alabama halts executions, state legislators have passed a bill this week that would utilize the electric chair in case the drugs for execution are unavailable or they are found to be unconstitutional. So while Alabama halts executions for now, this may all change at the end of June 2015 when the US Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case of Richard Glossip of Oklahoma.

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