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Despite botching three executions in 2022, Alabama resumes executions

The Guardian reports that the state of Alabama is due to execute James Barber, despite botching three executions in 2022, and a review of execution processes mostly kept from public view.

Alabama’s botched executions in 2022 included Joe Nathan James Jr on the 28 July, infamously known as the longest execution in US history at over 3 hours, as well as Alan Miller on the 22 September and Kenneth Smith on the 17 November.

Responding to James Barber’s imminent execution, Reprieve’s Director Maya Foa said: “This could be one in what has been a string of disastrously botched lethal injection executions in Alabama. What we have seen time and time again in Alabama but also across the US is prisoners repeatedly put through torturous procedures as the state seeks to end their lives. And even for supporters of capital punishment, the idea that people will be tortured should be anathema.

“Lethal injection is designed to look like a clean, medical process. But lethal injection executions go wrong all the time. In Alabama, these have been demonstrably, miserably botched executions. Joe Nathan James Jr’s execution took three-and-a-half hours, prison officials repeatedly trying and failing to get access to a vein.

“It’s really important to note that … the medicines were never designed to be used for lethal injections. When you use them in this way … without medical experts involved, buying drugs off the black market, under-regulated processes, guessing all of the provisions that make medicine safe … then to an extent it is bound to go wrong.

“So Alabama is a case, in the last three executions, that’s pretty staggering. But they did a review of this and then opted to do the same thing again, only to strap the prisoner down for a longer time.”

Foa added that Alabama was trying “to create a facade and essentially blind the public and the witnesses to what’s really happening in that [execution] chamber. And unfortunately, that masking seems to have passed muster with the courts, who have not yet acknowledged that they think this is cruel and unusual punishment”.