Split court allows execution
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.