Governor Kay Ivey has officially requested an amendment to Alabama's legal code to allow the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) commissioner to designate a new execution date in the event of a court-ordered stay.  

In the ever-escalating drama surrounding capital punishment in Alabama, Ivey is requesting that the Supreme Court adopt new rules to counteract "last-minute gamesmanship by death row inmates and their lawyers."

On November 17, ADOC called off the scheduled execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith after officials with ADOC failed to establish an intravenous (IV) line to administer the lethal chemicals in the state's protocol. Since death warrants have a 24-hour limit, Smith's execution was halted when officials determined they could not complete the execution in the required time frame. Smith's was the second failed lethal injection of the year.

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

On Monday, Ivey sent a letter to the Supreme Court of Alabama, asking for an amendment to the Alabama rules of appellate procedure, which would give Hamm the authority to reschedule executions halted by a court-ordered stay.

With the 24-hour limit placed on executions in the state, ADOC staff are rushed to carry out executions. Once a death warrant has expired, the Supreme Court has to set a new date, which means further legal challenges and appeals.  

This limited window has led Ivey and Marshall to speculate that inmates' legal strategy is to run out the clock on the death warrant.

"In several recent executions, last-minute gamesmanship by death row inmates and their lawyers has consumed a lot of valuable time, preventing the department from carrying out its execution protocol between the conclusion of all legal challenges in the federal courts and the expiration at the death warrant issued by your court," Ivey wrote.

According to Marshall, his staff was in multiple courtrooms on the day of Smith's attempted execution, fighting legal attempts to halt the process from moving forward.

"Ultimately, I trust your judgment as to the specifics of the amendment," Ivey wrote in the letter. "My only request is that you move as expeditiously as prudent given the importance of this rule change to the administration of justice in our state. Every day that goes by without this important amendment is another day that a capital murder victim's family must wait to obtain justice." 

Ivey also said ADOC was working on addressing issues within its own policies, such as the mandatory 6 p.m. start time for executions.

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