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Alabama groups call for transparency in executions, oppose nitrogen hypoxia

The groups are calling for transparency in response to the delayed execution of Joe James Jr. in July, in which witnesses were kept outside for two hours.

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A coalition of numerous Alabama groups will deliver three petitions to the governor’s office this morning calling for transparency during executions and protesting the use of nitrogen hypoxia.

The “Pull Back The Curtains” petition demands greater transparency in Alabama executions. The groups have launched the petition renewing the demand that media and other public witnesses observe the proceedings “from the moment a prisoner walks him or herself into the death chamber until they are declared dead.” It has just over 3,000 signatures so far.

The state’s execution of Joe James Jr. on July 28 has been shrouded in controversy as witnesses including media were kept in vans for two hours, and when they were finally brought in, James was already sedated and unresponsive.

An autopsy showed that he had been subjected to many and varied attempts to establish intravenous access with which to administer the execution drugs.

“The protocol states that if the veins are such that intravenous access cannot be provided, the team will perform a central line procedure. Fortunately, this was not necessary and with adequate time, intravenous access was established.” the Alabama Department of Corrections wrote in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

A second petition with nearly 4,000 signatures urges the state to grant clemency to Alan Miller, convicted of killing three people in a 1999 workplace incident in Shelby County. A judge Monday issued a stay in Miller’s execution after the defense claimed the state lost paperwork showing Miller’s request to be executed using nitrogen hypoxia.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases,” said Esther Brown, a spokesperson for Alabama’s Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty. “But no matter what you think about the death penalty, everyone wants our government to be capable and accountable. Alan Miller just won a stay of execution because the state lost the form in which he chose the gas chamber rather than lethal injection. The Alabama Department of Corrections seems more concerned about whether reporters are wearing underwear or proper shoes than if we have a competent execution team. It’s ridiculous.”

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The third and final petition challenges the use of nitrogen hypoxia in executions, something Alabama has never used to execute an inmate. It has over 10,000 signatures.

“Alabama’s new gas chamber has never been tested and no protocol for carrying out an execution using nitrogen hypoxia is known to be in existence,” the petition states.

Once the petitions are delivered, the groups will convene briefly at Dexter Ave. King Memorial Baptist Church.

An evening program featuring “Voices of Experience on the Death Penalty” will follow at the Kress Building at 39 Dexter Ave. starting at 7p.m. and is free and open to the public. Speakers include murder victim family members opposed to executions and exonerated death row survivor Radall Padgett, who spent five years in prison (three on Alabama’s death row) for a crime he did not commit.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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