The 2nd Execution of 2022
Matthew Reeves offered no final words and only few movements as his execution was carried out on the evening January 27, 2022at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama. Reeves as the second execution of 2020 and the second of the day. An execution in Oklahoma was carried out earlier in the day, according AL.com.
Reeves was pronounced dead around 9:24 p.m., according to Commissioner John Hamm. His execution began around 9:03 p.m., after a stay was lifted at 7:25 p.m. from the nation’s highest court.
Reeves had no final words, no final meal and no spiritual advisor present for his execution, which took place despite claims that he was intellectually disabled.
As the execution began, Reeves grimaced and rose his head slightly to look at the IV in his arm, before he laid his head back down. Around 9:09 p.m., he closed his eyes, though his abdomen continued moving.
Shortly after that time, a prison official performed a consciousness test which consisted of a hand wave over his face and an arm pinch.
Before 9:15 p.m., Reeves stopped moving.
After Reeves was pronounced dead, Hamm read a statement from the family of Willie Johnson to gathered media witnesses.
“After 26 years, justice has finally been served,” Hamm read from the family’s statement. “Our family can now have some closure.”
Reeves was executed for the murder of Willie Johnson, a man who picked up Reeves and other individuals on the side of the highway in Selma in November of 1996.
“After 26 years, justice has finally been served,” reads Commissioner John Hamm, on behalf of the family of Willie Johnson, following the execution of Matthew Reeves, which took place at
Johnson was later killed by a shotgun blast to the neck after being robbed of $360, according to case evidence.
At a party shortly after Johnson’s death, evidence showed that Reeves, who was 18 at the time, danced and mimicked his death with his blood still on his hands. A witness added that Reeves bragged about getting a “teardrop” tattoo to signify that he’d killed someone at the party.
Reeves’ intellectual disability was at the center of his case in the years since the murder and the reason why initially, his execution was stayed.
The execution was put on hold last week by a federal judge in Alabama, a decision upheld this week by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But the state, represented by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, who ultimately struck it down.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett noted she would deny the state’s petition, while Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Stephen Breyer dissented in the case.
“This Court should have left the matter there, rather than enable Reeves’s execution by lethal injection to go forward,” wrote Kagan.
“Four judges on two courts have decided—after extensive record development, briefing, and argument—that Matthew Reeves’s execution should not proceed as scheduled tonight. The law demands that we give their conclusions deference... But the Court today disregards the well-supported findings made below, consigning Reeves to a method of execution he would not have chosen if properly,” Kagan wrote.
Reeves has cognitive limitations and has the same reading ability as an elementary-school child, Kagan added, citing one expert who testified that Reeves’s “reading comprehension was at the 1st grade level.”
After news that the AG’s Office had appealed to SCOTUS, attorneys for Reeves filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in response.
“The application [by the State of Alabama] barely acknowledges the Court of Appeals’ opinion and is little more than a restatement of the issues already raised and rejected by each court to have considered them,” Reeves’ lawyers wrote in the brief.
Reeves’ lawyers argued he was not competent enough to follow the paperwork handed out to death row inmates in 2018 that allowed them to change their execution method. Reeves’ intellectual disability should disqualify him from being executed, the attorneys argued, as the state did not allow him to choose an untried and less “torturous” method of execution.
That new method of execution mentioned by the attorneys is nitrogen hypoxia, which was approved in 2018 by legislators. Inmates of Alabama’s death row had a chance to sign a form stating which method they would prefer that same year, but Reeves’ lawyers argued he was not allowed able to do so as an intellectually disabled poor reader.
His lawyers added that assistance should’ve been provided under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Reeves’ execution it was the second one of the day - and this year - in the U.S., after the state of Oklahoma executed Donald Grant around 10 a.m. Thursday morning.
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