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Alabama conducts first execution since suspension over botches

Jul 21, 2023

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For the first time since the suspension of executions in Alabama back in November of 2022, a man was put to death in the early morning hours of Friday, July 21. 64-year-old James Barber died from a lethal injection at 1:56 a.m. at the William Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama.

Barber was convicted and sentenced to death for killing 75-year-old Dorothy Epps during a robbery in her home in Harvest, Alabama, on the night of May 20, 2001. Barber reportedly did handy work for Epps before he beat her to death with a hammer.

“The justice that James Barber managed to avoid for more than two decades has finally been served. In 2001, 75-year-old Dorothy Epps desperately fought for her life as Mr. Barber brutally and gruesomely beat her to death in her own home,” Gov. Kay Ivey, D-Ala., said in a statement. “The facts are clear: Mr. Barber confessed to his guilt, and the jury has spoken. His litany of appeals to delay justice finally came to an end, and Mr. Barber has answered for his horrendous crime. In Alabama, we will always work to enforce the law and uphold justice.”

Before he was put to death, Barber told his family he loved them and apologized to Epps’ family. The execution went ahead after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene at the last moment.

“I forgive you for what you are about to do,” Barber said, in direction to Ivey “and the people in this room.”

Ivey issued the execution suspension after a string of botched Alabama executions in 2022. Two lethal injections were halted because of difficulties inserting IVs into the prisoners’ veins. In a third execution, which was eventually carried out after a delay, officials were unable to set the IV in the prisoner before the death warrant expired.

The suspension was lifted in February of 2023 after the Department of Corrections added medical professionals, obtained new equipment and conducted rehearsals for executions. Alabama also expanded the time allowed for an execution to be carried out before the expiration of the warrant.

Despite this, Barber’s attorneys unsuccessfully asked the courts to block the execution. They argued the state has a pattern of failing “to carry out a lethal injection execution in a constitutional manner.”

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EARLY THIS MORNING THE STATE OF ALABAMA CARRIED OUT ITS FIRST EXECUTION SINCE GOVERNOR KAY IVEY LIFTED A PAUSE ON EXECUTIONS FOLLOWING AN INTERNAL REVIEW OF PROCEDURES.
JAMES BARBER WAS CONVICTED AND SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR THE 2001 KILLING OF A 75-YEAR-OLD WOMAN DURING A ROBBERY.
THE EXECUTION WENT AHEAD AFTER THE U.S. SUPREME COURT DECLINED TO INTERVENE AT THE LAST MOMENT.
BEFORE BEING PUT TO DEATH BARBER OFFERED AN APOLOGY TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.
ALABAMA HALTED CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN THE FALL AFTER A STRING OF BOTCHED EXECUTIONS LAST YEAR —
INCLUDING ONE WHERE OFFICIALS WERE UNABLE TO SET THE IV LINE BEFORE THE DEATH WARRANT EXPIRED.
THE SUSPENSION WAS LIFTED AFTER THE STATE ADDED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS, OBTAINED NEW EQUIPMENT AND CONDUCTED REHEARSALS FOR EXECUTIONS.
ALABAMA ALSO EXPANDED THE TIME ALLOWED FOR AN EXECUTION TO BE CARRIED OUT BEFORE THE WARRANT EXPIRES.

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