Governor Kay Ivey halted the state’s executions on Monday in a surprise announcement, ordering a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s execution protocol following three consecutive executions riddled with problems and controversy.
Advocacy groups and officials from across the aisle are praising Ivey’s decision to review the execution process, even if they take issue with Ivey’s messaging that the pause comes out of concern for the victim’s families and not the men being put to death.
After the three-hour long execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. earlier this year, a coalition of groups led by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama Arise and Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty started the “Pull back the curtains” campaign urging greater transparency in the execution process.
“We are relieved that there will be a review, and dismayed that our state won’t simply throw out this archaic and unnecessary punishment,” the coalition said in a statement Monday. “Among other things, at a minimum this review should assess the toll taken on corrections workers and establish PTSD support for tortured prisoners & corrections officers alike.
“Ivey talks about how she never wants to send a murder victim family to the prison only to go home disappointed that they did not get to see an execution. That is the wrong motivation.”
Instead, the group said the state should be looking into what immediate support there is for the families of murder victims instead of promising an execution decades after the crime.
Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise, called on Attorney general Steve Marshall to agree with the review and suggested several changes to the process.
“The Department of Corrections should complete the thorough review of the state’s death penalty procedures that Ivey demanded,” Hyden said. “And the department should pull back the curtains and provide greater public transparency on those procedures.
“Legislators must do their part to reduce the unfairness of Alabama’s death penalty system, too. They should retroactively apply the state’s 2017 ban on judicial override, a practice that allowed judges to impose death sentences despite a jury’s recommendation otherwise. Lawmakers also should require unanimous agreement from jurors to sentence someone to death. And they should provide state funding for appeals of death sentences, as other states with capital punishment do.
“Our state’s death penalty is broken and should be abolished. Short of that, these policy changes would be important steps to reduce the inequities that pervade capital punishment in Alabama.”