Alabama’s 30-Hour Rule Won’t Fix State’s Execution Problems, Charges ‘Just Mercy’ Author  

Via Pix4free Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

By The Vanguard Staff

MONTGOMERY, AL – The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy —the story of an innocent man on Alabama’s death row—charged a “new rule allowing more time for executions will not solve the state’s problems with capital punishment.”

Bryan Stevenson, in an interview with, said “Alabama has not fully explained why it had to stop two lethal injections in progress last year or why a third took more than three hours to complete. In all three cases, the Alabama Department of Corrections said it had difficulty starting the intravenous lines.

“If state personnel cannot access someone’s vein after poking and prodding for two or three hours, they should stop,” Stevenson said. “And they should stop — not because the clock is running out — but because they do not have the capacity to, in a humane and constitutional manner, carry out that execution. And so I don’t think we’ve solved any of the critical problems that need to be solved by this adjustment.”

Stevenson told, after the second failed lethal injection in November, Gov. Kay Ivey called for a moratorium on executions for a “top to bottom” internal review, and a few months later, a new rule adopted by the Alabama Supreme Court gives the state more time to put inmates to death, giving the governor the ability to pick a time frame with a 30-day window set by the court.

In May, the governor announced Alabama’s next execution, of James Barber, would happen within a 30-hour period that ends at 6 a.m. on July 21, said, ending a longtime practice of scheduling 6 p.m. executions to be finished by midnight.

“I do not believe the problem with any of the executions that we have seen had anything to do at all with the length of time the Department of Corrections had to carry out these executions,” Stevenson said to

“Secondly, there’s a reason why we provide clarity and certainty around execution dates. Because a well-recognized form of torture is to say, ‘Oh, we’re going to execute you, but we’re not going to tell you when. It could be in the next hour. It could be in five hours.’ And I don’t think what we’re doing is moving in the direction of respect for basic human rights. I think it’s the opposite,” he added. said the “moratorium and new rules came after the prolonged execution in July 2022 of Joe Nathan James, Jr., followed by the failed attempts to execute Alan Eugene Miller in September and Kenneth Eugene Smith in November. The execution of James started three hours late because of difficulty starting the IV lines. The ADOC called off the executions of Miller and Smith after 11 p.m. because of concerns they would not be finished when the execution warrants expired at midnight.”

Ivey blamed the failures on appeals filed by death row inmates, added, quoting the governor as stating, “Far too many Alabama families have waited for far too long — often for decades — to obtain justice for the loss of a loved one and to obtain closure for themselves,” in a letter to Attorney General Steve Marshall in February, announcing the end of the execution review.

“This brief pause in executions was necessary to make sure that we can successfully deliver that justice and that closure. Now it is time to resume our duty of carrying out lawful death sentences,” added Ivey, noting, the ADOC “is as prepared as possible to carry out death sentences going forward, consistent with the Constitution and even knowing that death-row inmates will continue doing everything within their power to evade justice.”

Stevenson told Alabama’s “response to the lethal injection failures is part of a larger problem — a lack of commitment to a humane and constitutional criminal justice system,” adding he and the Equal Justice Initiative have documented problems in Alabama’s prison system that sparked federal interventions. The Department of Justice alleged unconstitutional conditions in the state’s prisons for men in a lawsuit in 2020, a case that is ongoing.

“I don’t think there’s any question that there has to be a different orientation to how (executions) are carried out,” Stevenson said in the story, adding, “But I also think the underlying problem, to be honest, you have to care. It has to matter to you that you do things right. This is a global problem with our corrections system. 

“We have one of the highest murder rates in the country. We have an unbelievably high assault rate. We don’t have enough staff and so the prisons are not well managed. They are in chaos. And it’s been that way for seven or eight years. But the truth is, if you don’t care enough, these problems will never get solved. And I just think we haven’t done enough to express a real commitment to being humane and just.” noted, “With every execution, public statements from the governor and the attorney general focus on the decades it takes to carry out a death sentence, justice for the victims and their families, and the brutality of the crimes. 

“For example, James shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Faith Hall in 1994 after stalking and harassing her, according to court records. Miller killed three men in Shelby County in a shooting spree in 1999. And Smith was convicted in the stabbing and beating death of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett in 1988, a murder-for-hire committed for $1,000.”

Before James was executed, Faith Hall’s daughters asked Ivey to commute his sentence to life without parole, said, adding Stevenson was “asked why the public should care that an inmate who committed a brutal crime suffers because of a prolonged, delayed, or bungled lethal injection procedure.”

“Because we have to be better than the people who have committed violent crimes,” Stevenson said. “We can’t become murderers and rapists just because someone has committed murder or rape. We don’t rape people who have been convicted of rape, because most of us recognize that that would be indecent, that we would lose something valuable, like our dignity and integrity and character and humanity, if we engaged in that.”

He added, “And we cannot replicate the worst behaviors of people in our society and still claim to be an evolved society, an evolved government. People have done horrific things. But if you simply tolerate their horror by engaging in horror, or respond to their horror with horror, you become more like them than the kind of just society I think most of us want to live in.”

Stevenson concluded, in the piece, “The measure of a government, of a society, you can’t measure them by how well they treat talented, gifted, privileged, wealthy people,” Stevenson said. “The character of a government has to be judged by how you treat poor people. Abused people. Marginalized people. Condemned people. Those are the people that actually reveal what kind of society we live in.”

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for