Alabama is expected to pause executions amid an unprecedented series of failed lethal injections, with three prisoners surviving so far. Governor Kay Ivey has asked Attorney General Steve Marshall to stop searching for execution dates of two waiting inmates and wishes for a total review of the state's capital punishment system, according to a statement from Ivey’s office.
The move comes after the execution of death row inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith failed on Thursday, marking the state's second failure in just a few months and the third since 2018. The issue seems to stem from problems with an IV line, with Alabama suffering similar setbacks in July when IV line issues delayed an execution by three hours.
Smith, who was sentenced to death after killing a woman for a $1,000 bounty, may now enter legal limbo while the review is ongoing.
"For the sake of the victims and their families, we've got to get this right," said Ivey’s office in a statement.
“Everything is on the table – from our legal strategy in dealing with last minute appeals, to how we train and prepare, to the order and timing of events on execution day, to the personnel and equipment involved,” Corrections Commissioner John Hamm continued.
Lethal injections are not often botched, but consequences can be severe when it does happen. Typical procedures involve using anesthetics to sedate the person, before administering a drug that paralyzes the body, and a lethal dose that stops the heart. However, if the sedatives do not work, severe pain can be felt for the remaining minutes of the person’s life, drawing intense scrutiny.
Multiple events in recent years have demonstrated that the various drug combinations and other complications can result in an extremely painful death, including one in 2016, where the inmate was supposedly still moving before being injected with the lethal dose.