Kenneth Eugene Smith, 57, was convicted of murdering a pastor’s wife in 1988 and was due to be executed Thursday, according to the Associated Press. However, the trial was halted after officials failed to find a vein through which to administer the deadly drugs.
Prison officials spent “about an hour” looking for a vein and trying “several locations” on the inmate’s body, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm told reporters.
“We started our protocol and at 11:21 [p.m.] we decided that we would not be able to finalize that protocol before midnight, when the death penalty expires,” the commissioner told reporters.
The team gained access to one vein, Hamm said, but was unable to establish the second IV line required by the protocol for lethal injection executions. Attempts to create a central line, where a catheter is inserted into a large vein, were also unsuccessful, he said.
The same problem arose when 57-year-old inmate Alan Eugene Miller was due to be put to death in September. His scheduled execution was halted after 2½ hours when no vein could be found — though the state later blamed the suspension on a spate of last-minute legal requests over the method to be used to execute Miller, which went all the way to went to the US. High Council.
The execution was halted at the last minute when Ala. prison staff could not find a vein
In 2018, Doyle Hamm’s execution was also halted after problems connecting the intravenous line, the AP reported at the time. Doyle Hamm, whose veins had been damaged by illness and previous drug use, later died of cancer in prison.
In her statement, Ivey denied that law enforcement or corrections officials were responsible for the problems plaguing the executions, saying she believes “legal tactics and system-hijacking criminals are at play.” She added: “For the sake of the victims and their families, we need to get this right.”
The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that reports on issues related to the death penalty, welcomed the call for a review but said the investigation must be completely independent. “The Alabama Department of Corrections has a history of denying and distorting the truth about botched executions, and it cannot be trusted to meaningfully investigate its own incompetence and misconduct,” the organization’s executive director said in a statement Monday.
Other executions in the state are also controversial. In July, Joe Nathan James Jr. – who shot dead his former girlfriend in 1994 – put to death despite the objections of his victim’s family. According to a private autopsy, James’ execution lasted more than three hours and there were again problems setting up an IV line, the AP reported.
States such as Oklahoma have conducted grand jury investigations into the use of lethal injection. One of the most notorious cases, condemned by both President Barack Obama and the United Nations, was the botched execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett. During the execution, Lockett, who had been presumed unconscious, began to shake and convulse on the gurney. After 43 minutes of apparent fear, he died of a heart attack.
According to June 2021 Pew survey, about 64 percent of Americans believe the death penalty is morally justifiable for crimes such as murder — although a similar number of respondents agreed that the punishment does not deter people from committing serious crimes. Seventy-eight percent of people said yes “any risk” that an innocent person might be executed.