Alabama halts executions due to difficulty in locating a suitable vein

Alabama halts executions due to difficulty in locating a suitable vein

Kenneth Eugene Smith Department of Corrections of Alabama

Atmore, Alabama — The execution of a man convicted of the 1988 murder-for-hire of a preacher’s wife in Alabama was halted just before midnight Thursday because officials were unable to find a vein suitable for injecting the lethal drugs.

Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections John Hamm stated that prison officials attempted for approximately one hour to attach Kenneth Eugene Smith, 57, to the two needed intravenous lines. After testing other areas on Smith’s body, according to Hamm, they were unsuccessful in establishing a second line. Then, officials attempted a central line, which entails inserting a catheter into a big vein.

Hamm stated, “We were unable to complete it in time, so we canceled the execution.”

It is the second time since September that the state has canceled an execution due to complications in placing an intravenous line with the deadline rapidly approaching.

The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for Smith’s execution when, at 10:20 p.m., it lifted a stay ordered by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier in the evening. However, the state decided roughly an hour later that the execution would not occur that evening.

The postponement occurred after Smith’s final appeals centered on intravenous line difficulties during Alabama’s last two scheduled executions. Since the death warrant expired at midnight, the state must seek a new execution date in court. The death row inmate Smith was restored to his usual cell, according to a prison official.

Smith, according to prosecutors, was one of two men who were each paid $1,000 to murder Elizabeth Sennett on behalf of her husband, who was heavily in debt and wanted to collect on his insurance policy. The murder and the subsequent revelations regarding its perpetrators shook the small north Alabama community to its core.

The execution was halted due to Smith’s last-minute appeals, according to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.

“Kenneth Eugene Smith chose $1,000 over Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett’s life, and he was without a doubt guilty. Three decades ago, Elizabeth’s family was assured that justice would be served through a legally imposed death sentence “Ivey said. Even though justice could not be served tonight due to last-minute legal attempts to delay or halt the execution, attempting to do so was the correct course of action.

Alabama has been scrutinized for recent problems with lethal injections. In pending litigation, inmate attorneys seek information regarding the qualifications of the execution team members responsible for connecting the lines. During a Thursday hearing in the case of Smith, a federal judge asked the state how long was too long to establish a line, noting that at least one state imposes a one-hour limit.

The execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. was delayed by several hours due to difficulties in establishing an intravenous line, prompting an anti-death penalty group to claim that the execution was botched.

Alan Miller’s scheduled execution was postponed in September due to difficulty accessing his veins. Miller stated in a court filing that prison staff pricked him with needles for more than an hour and left him hanging on a gurney before announcing they were stopping. The delays, according to prison officials, were the result of the state meticulously following procedures.

Sennett was discovered dead in the home she shared with her husband on Coon Dog Cemetery Road in Colbert County, Alabama, on March 18, 1988. The 45-year-old woman was stabbed eight times in the chest and once on each side of the neck, according to the coroner’s testimony. According to court documents, her husband, the pastor of the Westside Church of Christ, Charles Sennett Sr., committed suicide when the murder investigation focused on him as a suspect.

In 2010, John Forrest Parker, the other man convicted of the murder, was executed. “I’m sorry. I do not expect you to ever forgive me. Sincerely sorry, “Parker told the victim’s sons before being executed.

According to documents from the court of appeals, Smith told police in a statement that it was “agreed that John and I would commit the murder” and that he stole items from the residence to make it appear as if a burglary had occurred. According to court documents, Smith’s defense at trial claimed he participated in the attack but did not intend to kill the victim.

The prison system reported that Smith met with his attorney and family members, including his wife, in the hours preceding his scheduled execution. He consumed cheese curls and water, but declined the offered prison breakfast.

In 1989, Smith was initially convicted, and a jury voted 10 to 2 to recommend the death penalty, which the judge then imposed. In 1992, his conviction was overturned on appeal. In 1996, he was retried and convicted again. By a vote of 11-1, the jury recommended a life sentence, but the judge overrode the recommendation and sentenced Smith to death.

In 2017, Alabama became the last state to abolish the practice of letting judges override a jury’s sentencing recommendation in death penalty cases, but the change wasn’t retroactive and therefore didn’t affect death row prisoners like Smith. The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that advocates for inmates, said Smith stands to become the first state prisoner sentenced by judicial override to be executed since the practice was abolished.

Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court denied Smith’s petition to review the constitutionality of his death sentence on these grounds.

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