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Alabama executes James Barber following the Supreme Court’s approval

Barber was the first individual to be executed since the state’s moratorium on executions was lifted.

James Edward Barber

After a delay of over six hours Alabama executed James Edward Barber early Friday morning at 1:56 a.m. following a lethal injection at the Holman Correctional Facility. 

Barber’s execution was initially scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. but Barber and his lawyers filed an appeal to the United States Supreme Court seeking a stay of execution. 

The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision at approximately 12:13 a.m. to deny this request and allow the execution to proceed. 

The majority did not offer a statement explaining why they denied the request. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was joined by Justices Elana Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson in a written dissent. The dissent highlights Alabama’s botched executions from last year, the state’s highly criticized internal review after a moratorium on executions and likens Barber to being Alabama’s new “guinea pig.”

“The Eighth Amendment demands more than the State’s word that this time will be different,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “The Court should not allow Alabama to test the efficacy of its internal review by using Barber as its ‘guinea pig.’” 

Last year, Alabama botched three executions in a row, leading to a subsequent moratorium on executions and internal review. The review effectively changed very little by expanding the time given to execute an individual and revising personnel inside the death chamber. Barber was the first individual executed after the state’s moratorium was lifted.

Barber was killed for the 2001 murder of Dorothy Epps. Epp’ granddaughter Sarah Gregory had come to forgive Barber for the killing and even visited him prior to his execution.

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Lee Hedgepeth’s Tread Substack breaks down Barber’s final moments succinctly. IV lines enter Barber’s body at around 1:30 a.m. and he gives his final words at 1:33 a.m.

According to Tread, Barber apologizes to the Epps’ family and also forgives Governor Kay Ivey for “what you’re about to do.”

Tread then offers an eye-witness account of his labored breathing and body movement until the curtain closes at 1:47 a.m.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jon Hamm said in a press conference after the execution that it took 3 sticks to access Barber’s veins.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement following the execution stating, “Justice has been served. This morning, James Barber was put to death for the terrible crime he committed over two decades ago: the especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel murder of Dorothy Epps.”

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

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