Kenneth Eugene Smith, the man who survived Alabama’s last attempted execution, alleges in a new court filing that he was strapped to a stretcher, injected with an unknown substance and pricked with needles for four hours before the state finally ordered the execution just before midnight canceled .
Smith, 57, was due to die by lethal injection on November 17 at William C. Holman Correctional Facility. Atmore Prison is the only state facility with an execution chamber. He was due to be executed for his role in the 1988 murder of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, a Colbert County pastor’s wife, who was fatally stabbed and beaten.
Gov. Kay Ivey has since ordered a moratorium on executions pending an internal review of the state’s execution process.
A Friday court filing from Smith’s attorneys detailed his account of what happened the night of the execution. Around 7:45 p.m., the filing said, Smith was on the phone with his wife while waiting outside the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to rule on his request for a stay, when guards broke into Smith’s cell and took him to a stretchers buckled .
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At around 8 p.m., the 11th Circuit granted the request and stayed the execution. The filing states that when Smith’s attorneys notified state attorneys that the execution was not taking place at this time, ADOC’s attorneys replied, “Noted.”
“But the execution continued despite the 11th Circuit’s presence, with Mr. Smith remaining strapped to a stretcher until nearly midnight,” the filing reads. “Mr. Smith was not informed that a federal court had stayed his execution while he lay immobilized for hours by the tight straps covering his body, nor was he allowed to communicate with his attorney as his appeals were being filed and being heard.”
“They executed him – and he thought they were going to execute him.”
Two hours later, according to the filing, an IV team entered the execution chamber and began “repeatedly stabbing Mr. Smith’s arms and hands with needles, well beyond the point where the executioners should have known it wasn’t reasonably possible.” was to gain access to a vein.” The document describes an “inverted crucifixion position” into which Smith was tipped.
Next, the filing states that the IV team injected Smith with “an unknown substance that was … some type of sedative and/or anesthetic.”
At the start of Smith’s lawsuit, the Alabama Attorney General had agreed not to use intramuscular sedation during the lethal injection, saying the practice was not part of the ADOC protocol.
“Following this injection, a person of unknown medical qualifications, wearing a face shield, began repeatedly pricking[Smith’s]collarbone area with a large needle to begin a central IV line in his subclavian artery,” the filing reads. Describing intense pain in the court filing, Smith added that attempts to launch a central line for the lethal three-drug injection cocktail went “far beyond the point where the executioner should have known he wasn’t going to gain access.” .
According to the document, Smith’s attorneys saw reports on social media that the execution had been called off around 11:20 p.m. and asked ADOC officials for confirmation.
A federal judge has ruled that the state must preserve all evidence of the failed execution attempt.