Criminal defense attorney talks about Willie B. Smith III ahead of execution

Local News
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December 25 2021 12:00 am

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Death row inmate Willie B. Smith III is set for execution on Thursday. He was convicted of killing Sharma Ruth Johnson, the sister of a Birmingham Police detective in 1991.

The 22-year-old was kidnapped and shot to death; her body found in her burning car.

Experts say Smith has an IQ of about 70, making him intellectually incapable of understanding an opt in form for choosing his form of execution.

Inmates got the option to be executed through lethal injection or nitrogen suffocation in 2018, but Smith did not opt-in during a 30-day period that year when he had the chance.

“A lawyer would have certainly advised him to opt-in, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that he didn’t understand that,” criminal defense attorney Richard Jaffe said.

According to Jaffe, the death penalty is dramatically down in the United States. He predicts one day it will evaporate. The execution is set for 6 p.m. Thursday unless a court or the governor intervenes.

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