Thursday, June 1, 2023

Alabama inmate wants executed by unproven nitrogen hypoxia

Lawyers for an inmate who is soon set to die in Alabama are arguing he should be executed by the state’s newly approved, but not yet tested, method instead of lethal injection after one controversial execution and two failed execution attempts on other inmates last year, reported

James Barber, 64, is currently on death row at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. His execution day is approaching, but hasn’t been formally set to a single date: A new Alabama Supreme Court rule allows for an execution warrant to be issued for a “time frame” rather than a single day, allowing the governor to choose the timing of an execution. It’s a shift from how the process formerly worked, when the high court set a 24-hour period for executions. If an execution didn’t happen by midnight on that specified date, the execution had to be called off.

The warrant issued for Barber says Gov. Kay Ivey will set a time frame for Barber’s lethal injection “which shall not begin less than 30 days” from the May 3 order. It’s unclear how long the “time frame” will last, but the order means it must begin sometime after June 2.

The governor has not yet announced the time frame for Barber’s upcoming execution.

Barber was convicted in Madison County for the 2001 slaying of 75-year-old Dorothy Epps. Barber knew Epps because he had previously dated her daughter and he had done home repair work for her. Epps was beaten to death with Barber’s fists and a claw hammer in her Harvest home, according to court records. She suffered multiple skull fractures, head lacerations, brain bleeding, and rib fractures.

In a lawsuit filed by Barber’s attorneys in the U.S. Middle District of Alabama last week, Barber’s lawyers argue he should be executed by nitrogen hypoxia - suffocation on pure nitrogen - instead of lethal injection. The lawsuit calls the method a “readily available alternative.”

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