Split court al­lows ex­e­cu­tion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Mark Ber­man

An Alabama in­mate heaved and coughed dur­ing his ex­e­cu­tion Thurs­day night, a lethal in­jec­tion process that lasted for more than a half-hour, ac­cord­ing to me­dia wit­nesses.

The lethal in­jec­tion fol­lowed a dead­locked U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion not to step in, but with four of the eight jus­tices say­ing they would have stayed the ex­e­cu­tion, one shy of the num­ber needed to halt it.

Ron­ald Bert Smith Jr., 45, was sen­tenced to death for killing Casey Wil­son, a con­ve­nience-store clerk, dur­ing a rob­bery in 1994, ac­cord­ing to court records. Pros­e­cu­tors said that Smith pis­tol-whipped Wil­son, shot him and then re­turned to shoot the clerk again, killing him.

Dur­ing the lethal in­jec­tion, which took 34 min­utes, Smith was ap­par­ently strug­gling for breath as he heaved and coughed for about 13 min­utes, wrote Kent Faulk of AL.com, one of the me­dia wit­nesses. In ad­di­tion, Smith clenched his fist af­ter be­ing given the first drug, Faulk wrote.

This ac­count was echoed by an As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter also serv­ing as a me­dia wit­ness.

Jef­fer­son Dunn, com­mis­sioner of the Alabama De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions said an au­topsy would be done on Smith. “And if there were any ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties or any­thing, then that would be shown, borne out, in the au­topsy.”

Dunn said that of­fi­cials “fol­lowed the pro­to­col ac­cord­ing to the way it is writ­ten” and that there were two at­tempts to as­sess Smith’s con­scious­ness dur­ing the ex­e­cu­tion.

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