Alabama’s death by execution is considered a homicide. Although it may seem like an honest acknowledgment of the fact that capital punishment in Alabama is state-sanctioned killing, it is most likely a maneuver to conceal the horrifying reality.
When journalists request autopsy records following an execution, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences declares the case remains “under investigation” and refuses to release themUntil the investigation is over. Alabama’s murders are a state secret.
The purpose of lethal injection was always to conceal the horrible truth of taking a life. A paralytic is used to stop prisoners crying or contorting while they are suffering what Supreme Court Justice SonyaSotomayor described. described as “the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake,” witnesses are spared the agony — and prevented from realizing the torture that is unfolding. Alabama’s recent execution of Joe James shows that states are finding even this false, sanitized theater a little too real.
Here’s what we know: The execution was scheduled to start at 6 pm. At 6:33 PM, media witnesses were taken into a van with no phones and told that they should wait. They waited. They waited. James did not respond when the warden asked him if he had any final words.
Officially, the execution took 23 minutes. It lasted from 9:04 pm when the first lethal drug was administered to James, until 9:27 pm when James was declared dead. Officials spent three hours trying to establish intravenous accessibility. Photos seen by The AtlanticMultiple puncture marks from where he was stabbed using needles, as well deep cuts where his flesh had been sliced in an attempt to find a vein. Bruises indicate that he is struggling and reports suggest that officials have attempted to sedate him.
Parallels to the attempted execution Doyle Lee Hamm2018 is another year of striking. During that nearly three-hour ordeal, corrections staff pierced Hamm’s body a dozen times, puncturing his bladder and his femoral artery. He survived, unlike James.
Officials at the time, as well as now, insisted that nothing had gone wrong. “I wouldn’t characterize what we had tonight as a problem,” Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn toldThe press. Current Commissioner John Hamm described the grisly three-hour effort to kill James as “nothing out of the ordinary.”
James’s execution appears to have taken longer than any recorded lethal injection execution carried out in the U.S. and may turn out to be the longest execution in U.S. history using any method, but it’s not an outlier. Setting an IV line is exceptionally difficult, even for a trained medical practitioner — something prison staff are not. It can often become a bloody spectacle. And even when it doesn’t, it’s still likely the prisoner died in agony, because lethal injection was designed to hide the very pain it causes.
2006: Curtains were drawn Joseph Clark’sOne of his veins gave way, and he was executed. Witnesses heard “moaning, crying out and guttural noises” in the 90 minutes he took to die. Three years later, Ohio officials stabbed him. Romell BroomHe was stabbed at least 18 times in his arms during two hours before being executed. 2014 Clayton LockettThe Oklahoma prison staff punctured an artery in a prisoner, and the victim bled all over the gurney. Just as the state closed the execution, she writhed, groaned, and bled to death. At least seven moreExecutions by lethal injection have been known to last for more than an entire hour.
States have devised new execution protocols to address these horrifying spectacles. Witnesses are not allowed in after the IV line is set. Executions of lethal injection victims are now carried out twice: first, the painful procedure behind closed doors, and then the theatrical performance.
Witnesses arrived in Arkansas in 2017 to see Jack Jones tied to a gurney and with IV lines. Although the execution was completed in 14 minutes, officials spent 45 minutes behind closed doors whacking at Jack Jones’ neck. In the autopsy report, it was revealed that the coroner noted that “tan colored makeup” had been applied toThe body, in an apparent attempt to cover up the wounds.
The family of Joe James’s victim, Faith Hall, did not want him to be executed. Her daughter, Terrlyn Hall, told the Associated Press: “I just feel like we can’t play God. We can’t take a life. And it’s not going to bring my mom back.” But after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey refused the request. In vain, Kay Ivey continued to commit homicides.
Right now, we don’t know exactly what happened in that room between 6 pm and 9 pm, in the final hours of Joe James’s life. Because state officials “cannot confirm” that James was conscious when the drugs were administered, we don’t even know for sure that it was the drugs that killed him.
We know that it was murder. There will be more blood until Alabama officials stop using lethal injections and abolish the death penalty.