The state of Alabama carried out the execution of a man at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility late Thursday night.
Matthew Reeves was put to death by lethal injection at 9:24 p.m. Prison officials said Reeves rejected meals on the day of his execution and that he had no final words to say before the injection was administered.
Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement and asked for prayers for the family of the victim, Willie Johnson, Jr.
“In November 1996, Matthew Reeves committed an act of cold-blooded evil, brutally murdering a good Samaritan who stopped to offer Reeves and his friends assistance after their vehicle broke down and stranded them on the side of the road,” said Marshall. “In return for Willie Johnson’s act of kindness—offering Reeves and his friends a ride and a tow to their destination—Reeves shot Johnson in the neck with a shotgun, stole $360 from Johnson’s body, and mocked Johnson’s last moments.
“There can be no doubt that a jury of his peers correctly convicted Reeves of capital murder, for which he was sentenced to death. While I regret that it has taken 24 years for Reeves to finally receive his just punishment, tonight justice has finally been served.”
The execution came after a back-and-forth in the courts over whether Reeves should be allowed to choose a different method of execution.
On Jan. 7, a federal judge blocked Reeves' execution. Reeves filed a complaint against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), claiming the state violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they did not help him understand a form that would have allowed him to select an execution via nitrogen suffocation. Reeves was determined illiterate and had an IQ below 70.
Experts had determined that Reeves could read at a fourth-grade level, but his comprehension was lower still. Last week, the court determined that ADOC had previous knowledge of Reeves, yet they still did not provide accommodation for him to understand the form he submitted, according to testimony and the court issued a stay of execution.
This week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Reeves may select his method of execution and upheld the stay of execution.
However, the state appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday, which lifted the stay.
Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement after the execution.
“The day before Thanksgiving 1996, Willie Johnson, Jr., a good Samaritan lending a helping hand, was brutally murdered by Matthew Reeves,” said Ivey. “The evidence in this case is clear, Mr. Reeves’ sentence is fair, and tonight, justice was rightfully served. Over 20 years after the cold-blooded murder, Mr. Reeves remains guilty, and his lack of remorse is unchanged. I pray that the Johnson family can finally receive closure.”
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