Disease and suicide are claiming inmates on Alabama's death row faster than the executioner, reported The Associated Press.
With Alabama's capital punishment mechanism on hold for more than two years because of legal challenges and a shortage of drugs for lethal injections, five of the state's death row inmates have died without ever seeing the inside of the execution chamber.
John Milton Hardy, convicted of killing Clarence Nugene Terry during a robbery at a convenience store in Decatur in 1993, was the most recent death row inmate to die. Prison officials say he died of unspecified natural causes on June 15.
Convicted killer Benito Albarran, 41, hanged himself in the infirmary at Donaldson prison about two months earlier. A decade earlier, he was convicted of fatally shooting Huntsville police officer Daniel Golden outside a Mexican restaurant where he worked.
Golden's brother, David Golden, said family members wanted to witness Albarran's execution and felt cheated by his death.
"He took the coward's way out," Golden told reporters in Huntsville after Albarran killed himself.
Attorney Joseph Flood, who represented Albarran as he challenged his conviction in state court, said the inmate's mother died a week or two before he took his own life.
"He fell into a deep depression after that," said Flood.
In March, David Eugene Davis, 56, died of natural causes at Holman prison near Atmore after suffering from liver failure. He was convicted of killing Kenneth Douglas and John Fikes in St. Clair County in 1996.
Two more death row inmates died last year, Ricky Dale Adkins of cancer and Justin T. Hosch, who hanged himself at Holman prison. Hosch was convicted in Autauga County in the 2008 shooting death of Joey Willmore, and Adkins was condemned for killing real estate agent Billie Dean Hamilton in St. Clair County in 1988.
The last inmate put to death in Alabama was Andrew Reid Lackey, who died by lethal injection on July 25, 2013, for killing Charles Newman during a robbery in Limestone County in 2005. At the time, he was the first inmate put to death in the state since October 2011.
With 189 people currently on death row, the state is trying to resume executions, but legal challenges could be a roadblock.
The state is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by death row inmate Tommy Arthur, who challenged the use of the sedative midazolam as inhumane during lethal injections. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of the drug in an Oklahoma case, but Arthur contends Alabama's execution protocol is different from the one used there.
The state switched to midazolam after it had to halt executions because it was out of other drugs needed for lethal injections.
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