Willie B. Smith III: death row inmate in Alabama executed nearly 30 years after his murder conviction
Smith was executed by legal injection at 9:47 p.m. local time in Atmore, Ala, according to the attorney general’s office.
“Sharma Johnson’s family had to wait 29 years, 11 months and 25 days for the conviction of Sharma’s murderer to be carried out,” State Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. “Finally, the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on them – a decades-long denial of justice – has come to an end.”
On October 17, a preliminary injunction to stop his execution regarding his choice of method of execution was rejected by a federal court.
A state law came into effect in 2018 that allowed death row inmates to choose death from nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection, the default method of execution. Court records show Smith was given the form to choose from, but did not make the choice during a 30-day membership period.
Because Smith suffers from “significant cognitive impairments,” his preliminary injunction motion alleged that he was unable to “enjoy the benefit of the law and the election form” without being helped to understand the form and its contents. According to the ruling, Smith’s attorneys claimed he was unable to complete the form because he has an IQ between 64 and 72.
United States District Chief Justice Emily Marks ruled: “Because Smith has failed to demonstrate a substantial probability of success on the merits of his Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim, and because the actions weighed against him, Smith did not live up to his burden of establishing his entitlement to a preliminary injunction.
Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement after the execution: “The evidence in this case was overwhelming and justice was rightly served. The execution of Mr. Smith’s sentence sends a message that the state of Alabama will not tolerate these murderous acts. I pray that those close to Mrs Johnson will be closer to finding peace. ”
Dave Alsup of CNN contributed to this report.