Photo: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / Getty Images
The Alabama prison officials executed Willie Smith Thursday night, eight months after the Supreme Court halted his lethal injection. due to a dispute over the presence of his pastor in the death chamber.
Smith, 52, was pronounced dead at 9:47 p.m., according to the attorney general’s office.. He was sentenced to death in 1992 for the kidnapping, robbery and murder of 22-year-old Sharma Johnson in 1991.
“Sharma Johnson’s family has had to wait 29 years, 11 months and 25 days for the sentence of Sharma’s killer to be carried out,” Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall said in a statement.
“Finally, the cruel and unusual punishment that has been meted out, a decades-long denial of justice, has come to an end.”
The execution “was carried out in accordance with our protocol,” the Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner later told reporters.
He did not eat for the last time and refused to eat breakfast and lunch during the day when he was observed sipping a Coke and eating M & Ms and barbecue chips, prison spokeswoman Linda Mays said.
The execution was delayed for several hours as the United States Supreme Court considered a request from Smith’s lawyers regarding his method of execution, which was denied.
Smith’s attorneys said he missed the chance to die from nitrogen hypoxia because he has “lifelong intellectual defects, as evidenced by an IQ of 64 at the low end and 75 at the high end.”
They said his execution would violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
The defense accused the Alabama Department of Corrections of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act when they did not allow Smith the accommodations necessary for him to understand his option to choose nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution.
The Supreme Court stopped the date of Smith’s last execution on February 11, a few hours before the scheduled date of his death.
The judges ruled that Alabama could not execute him without his pastor in the execution chamber with him.
After the execution on Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement, saying she should send a message that Alabama “will not tolerate these murderous acts.”
“The evidence in this case was overwhelming and justice has been legitimately done,” Ivey said.
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