Alabama’s recent inability to administer lethal injection is unprecedented nationwide, according to a group that monitors capital punishment.
The Death Penalty Information Center told The Associated Press on Friday that no other state has had to halt an execution in progress since 2017.
The execution of 57-year-old death row inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith was called off just before midnight on Thursday after state officials could not find a suitable vein.
It was the second instance for the state of being unable to execute an inmate in the past two months, and the third since 2018.
Execution of man who killed preacher’s wife halted for strange reason in Alabama
An execution was completed in July after a three-hour delay partly due to problems with starting the IV line.
“I think Alabama clearly has some explaining to do, but also some reflection about what is going wrong with its implementation process,” said Ngozi Ndulu, the center’s deputy director. “The question is whether Alabama is going to take it seriously.”
However, Alabama’s Department of Corrections disputed that the cancellation was a reflection of problems, attributing a late court action to a “short deadline for completing the protocol”.
Officials said they called off the executions for the night after they were unable to clear the way for it to begin at 10.20 pm and within the 100-minute deadline between the death warrant’s expiration.
The stay was lifted earlier in the evening by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, but the state decided an hour later that the injections would not take place.
“We have no concerns about the state’s ability to perform lethal injection procedures in the future,” the Alabama Department of Corrections said in an emailed statement to the outlet, adding that it continues to assess and identify areas for improvement. Will continue to review its processes.”
Fox News Digital’s request for comment from the department was not immediately returned.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey blamed Smith’s last-minute appeal for the execution not proceeding at the scheduled time.
“Kenneth Eugene Smith chose $1,000 on the life of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, and there’s no question about that. He was guilty. Some three decades ago, a promise was made to Elizabeth’s family that would legally protect her from death.” Justice will be done through punishment,” he said. “While that justice could not be done tonight because of legal efforts to delay or cancel the execution at the last minute, it was right to attempt to do so.”
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Smith’s layers say they believe he would have been strapped into a gurney for up to four hours, even though a final appeal was underway after he arrived.
Smith’s attorneys wrote, “Mr. Smith undoubtedly has injuries from the attempted execution – and certainly physical and testimonial evidence that needs to be preserved – that may be photographed and/or filmed.”
The state must go back to court to seek a new execution date.
After surviving the attempt he was returned to Holman Prison.
Smith was convicted in 1998 of the murder for hire of Elizabeth Sennett, the preacher’s wife.
Prosecutors said the death row inmate was one of two men who had been paid $1,000 to kill Elizabeth Sennett on behalf of her husband, Charles Sennett Sr., who wanted to collect on insurance. Sennett was found dead at his Colbert County home on March 18, 1988, and the coroner testified that the 45-year-old had been stabbed eight times in the chest and once on either side of the neck.
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Her husband killed himself when the murder investigation focused on her as a suspect.
John Forrest Parker, the other man convicted of the murder, was executed in 2010.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.