MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Attorneys for an Alabama inmate on death row asked a federal appeals court Monday to block his upcoming execution, arguing the state has a history of troubled lethal injections.
James Barber, 54, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday as the state seeks to resume executions following a lengthy pause.
Gov. Kay Ivey temporarily suspended executions last year after two lethal injections were called off because of difficulties inserting an IV into the veins of the condemned men. Advocacy groups claimed a third execution that was carried out after a lengthy delay was botched.
A panel of judges with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday but did not indicate when they will rule.
“We’re able to see from what happened last year; we have a very strong chance of substantial harm,” Barber attorney Mara Klebaner told the panel.
Richard Anderson, an assistant Alabama attorney general, told the court that the state will use a new IV team. He argued that shows a “good faith” effort to correct any problems that had occurred. He said the state submitted documentation showing the people responsible for setting IV lines are appropriately licensed.
Klebaner argued the state’s decision to pick a different IV team does not solve the problem.
“It’s like picking up a different can of soda off the shelf from a factory that isn’t passing safety inspections,” she said.
After the internal review, Alabama also did away with its customary midnight deadline to get an execution underway in order to give the state more time to establish an intravenous line and battle last-minute legal appeals. The state will have until 6 a.m. Friday morning to get Barber’s execution started.
Barber was convicted of the 2001 beating death of 75-year-old Dorothy Epps. Prosecutors said Barber, a handyman who knew Epps’ daughter, confessed to killing Epps with a claw hammer and fleeing with her purse. Jurors voted 11-1 to recommend a death sentence, which a judge imposed.