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Fourth Execution This Week Called Off After IV Insertion Fails

In the last of four scheduled executions nationwide this week, Alabama officials were unable to connect intravenous lines to their prisoner and had to call off the execution as a midnight deadline neared, the Associated Press reports. The botched execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith, convicted in a 1988 murder for hire, was put under tight time pressures by a stay issued by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that was lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court at 10:20 p.m. Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said prison staff tried for about an hour to connect the two required intravenous lines, but gave up after trying multiple places on Smith's body. It was the second execution since September the state canceled because of IV line problems. In ongoing litigation, lawyers for inmates have questioned the medical competence of the state's execution teams. Smith's pending execution is notable also for the fact that his jury, in a 1996 retrial, voted 11-1 against executing him but the judge overrode the verdict and sentenced Smith to death. That override option no longer exists under Alabama law.

Hours before the Alabama execution was called off, Oklahoma executed Richard Stephen Fairchild for the 1993 murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old son. Arizona likewise successfully carried out its execution on Wednesday of Murray Hooper for the murder of two people in 1980. The same day, Texas executed Stephen Barbee for the 2005 murders of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her child, but Barbee's execution was prolonged while prison officials searched for a vein in the disabled man's body, the Texas Tribune reports. Barbee's attorney had recently tried to halt the execution over fears that it would amount to "torture" because of the man's severe joint deterioration, which prevented him from straightening his arms or laying them flat. Courts rejected the appeals, noting that prison officials had vowed to make special adjustments to the death chamber’s gurney to accommodate Barbee. Still, it took much more time to carry out the execution than is typical in Texas. “Due to his inability to extend his arms, it took longer to ensure he had functional IV lines,” prison spokesperson Amanda Hernandez said in an email Wednesday night.


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