MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Arguing against a lawsuit, Alabama’s attorney general contended that an inmate did not suffer unconstitutionally during a lethal injection that was called off last year when the execution team couldn’t establish an intravenous line despite repeated attempts.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Kenneth Eugene Smith seeking to prevent the state from making a second attempt to put him to death. The attorney general argued that repeatedly being pricked with a needle does not rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment and that Smith did not suffer unconstitutional pain and mental anguish during the attempted execution.
“Allegations of pain related to difficulty achieving intravenous access do not amount to cruel and unusual punishment,” lawyers for the state wrote in the Monday court filing.
Smith was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Nov. 17 for the 1988 murder-for-hire slaying of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett. Prison officials called off Smith’s execution for the night after they were unable to establish IV access.
The failed execution was the second instance that year of Alabama being unable to carry out an execution because of difficulties connecting intravenous access and its third since 2018.
The problems led to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey seeking a pause in executions to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s capital punishment system.
The Alabama Supreme Court, at Ivey’s request, abolished the previous one-day timeframe to carry out a death sentence. Instead, the governor will set a window of time for the execution to be carried out. The prison system had blamed last-minute legal filings — combined with a midnight deadline to get the execution started — as a reason for calling off Smith’s execution.
Smith’s lawyers argued in the court filing that Smith was “subjected to ever-escalating levels of pain and torture” on the night of the “botched” execution. They argued prison staff strapped Smith to a death chamber gurney, despite a court order in place at the time blocking the execution from going forward, and later subjected him to numerous needle jabs, including in the neck and collarbone region.