Monday, April 23, 2007

Tackling Alabama

Alabama has a conundrum. One execution is scheduled for next month and several more are in the works. Yet, a hearing is scheduled in October regarding the constitutionality of the state's refusal to release information about how it conducts executions. (In other states, we've only fully learned about botched executions after information about protocols was released. A number of states fall in this category -- Arkansas, Missouri, California, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and so on.)

Today, at the request of our Alabama affiliate, Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, we submitted this letter to the editor to The New York Times. Hopefully, they'll print it!

April 23, 2007

To the editor:

You recently noted that Alabama is the only state in the country where death row inmates facing executions are not provided lawyers by the state (“In Alabama, Execution Without Representation,” March 26)

Alabama now has another dubious claim: it is preparing to execute at least one person even while the state’s primary method of execution – lethal injection -- is being challenged in federal court. Aaron Jones has a May 3 execution date despite the fact that other inmates on Alabama’s death row face an October hearing which will decide whether the state’s refusal to say how it carries out executions violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Alabama’s peculiar recalcitrance comes as executions have been halted in nearly a dozen other states because of newly raised concerns over lethal injection protocols. The cruel irony is that if Alabama’s inmates are to prevail in their effort to force the state to reveal how it carries out executions – what dosages of drugs are used, how IVs are administered, whether members of its execution team even receive training in setting an IV – it will be too late for Jones. A federal judge ruled that he cannot challenge Alabama’s method of execution because he filed his challenge too late. When it comes to justice, that’s a rather perverse technicality.

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