Advocates Call Alabama Execution 'Avoidable Disaster'

Ronald Smith coughed and heaved for 13 minutes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 10, 2016 11:39 AM CST
Advocates Call Alabama Execution 'Avoidable Disaster'
Ronald Smith Jr.   (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP)

Defenders of a condemned inmate in Alabama are calling his execution an "avoidable disaster," the AP reports. For 13 minutes after he was sedated to avoid an unconstitutionally painful death, Ronald Smith Jr. was seen coughing, gasping, and moving. Smith's legal team says these movements Thursday night show "he was not anesthetized at any point during the agonizingly long procedure." Alabama's Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn disputes that Smith was in pain after being injected with midazolam, a sedative some states are using now that pharmaceutical companies are refusing to make other drugs available for executions.

Smith coughed and heaved his chest repeatedly during the 30-minute execution process and appeared to move his arms slightly after two tests were administered to determine consciousness. Attorneys with the Alabama Federal Defenders Program, who watched the execution, issued a statement expressing profound disappointment "that the state and courts failed to intervene at any stage and take steps to prevent this avoidable disaster." Dunn said Alabama's execution protocol has been upheld by the courts, and he disputed that the condemned man felt any pain. (More death penalty stories.)

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