The drama surrounding Alabama's ongoing issues with the death penalty continues to unfold as lawyers for the most recently failed execution describe "torture" in the botched attempt.

Alabama has had issues with its lethal injection protocol for some time, culminating in Gov. Kay Ivey placing a moratorium on all executions until the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) can determine and remedy the issues.

On November 17, ADOC called off the scheduled execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith after officials with the ADOC failed to establish an intravenous (IV) line to administer the lethal chemicals in the state's protocol. This was the second failed execution in 2022.

In September, Alan Eugene Miller's execution was also called off after ADOC officials failed to establish an IV line.

According to a court filing from Smith's attorneys, Smith was strapped to a gurney for nearly two-and-a-half hours while the U.S. Supreme Court was deliberating over lifting a stay of execution that was in place from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Smith's attorneys are asking the state to forbid a second execution attempt, stating he had already been "subjected to ever-escalating levels of pain and torture." 

Attorneys further stated that Smith was punctured with needles multiple times in his arms, hands, neck and collarbone region "well past the point at which the executioners should have known that it was not reasonably possible to access a vein."

Attorneys said the prison team then used a large gauge needle to try to establish a line through a blood vessel beneath the collarbone. When Smith did not comply with a request to turn his head, a deputy warden held "Smith's head in both his hands, torqued it to the side, saying, 'Kenny, this is for your own good.'"

"Defendants' treatment of Mr. Smith does not fall within society's standards for a constitutional execution," attorneys for Smith wrote in a complaint filed in federal court. "The botched execution was terrifying and extremely painful for Mr. Smith."

The lawsuit accuses the state of violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, seeks monetary damages, and asks for an injunction to block Alabama from "making a second attempt to execute Mr. Smith."

In her request, Ivey asked Attorney General Steve Marshall not to seek additional executions until ADOC Commissioner John Hamm can "undertake a top-to-bottom review of the state's execution process and how to ensure the state can successfully deliver justice going forward."

"For the sake of the victims and their families, we've got to get this right," Ivey said in a statement. "I don't buy for a second the narrative being pushed by activists that these issues are the fault of the folks at Corrections or anyone in law enforcement, for that matter. I believe that legal tactics and criminals hijacking the system are at play here."

"I will commit all necessary support and resources to the Department to ensure those guilty of perpetrating the most heinous crimes in our society receive their just punishment. I simply cannot, in good conscience, bring another victim's family to Holman looking for justice and closure until I am confident that we can carry out the legal sentence."

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