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Alabama lethal injection execution called 'avoidable disaster'

[JURIST] Defenders of condemned inmate Ronald Bert Smith Jr. are calling his execution [Chicago Tribune report] an "avoidable disaster." The death row inmate was seen [AP report] coughing, and his upper body heaved repeatedly for 13 minutes as he was being sedated. Furthermore, during the first consciousness test, Smith moved his arm. Smith's attorneys stated that the movements show that he "was not anesthetized at any point during the agonizingly long procedure." However, the state prison commissioner says there was no visible evidence that he suffered during a lethal injection, saying that all the injection protocols were properly followed.

Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. In November the legal status of the death penalty was upheld [JURIST report] by state referendum in Oklahoma, Nebraska and California. In September executions in Oklahoma were put on a two-year hiatus so Oklahoma can reevaluate its lethal injection procedures [JURIST report] following a botched execution and several drug mix-ups in the past two years. In May the US Supreme Court upheld a stay [JURIST report] of execution for Alabama inmate Vernon Madison. A few days before that a Miami judge ruled [JURIST report] that Florida's revamped death penalty law is unconstitutional because it does not require a unanimous agreement among jurors to approve executions. In April Virginia's General Assembly voted [JURIST report] to keep secret the identities of suppliers of lethal injection drugs.

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