HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - There are claims the State of Alabama botched the execution Thursday night of Ronald Bert Smith. He died by way of lethal injection at Holman Prison for the 1994 slaying of a Huntsville convenience store clerk. There are conflicting reports from witnesses.
“Everything went as planned,” according to Alabama Department of Corrections Spokesperson Bob Horton. He watched the execution of Smith late Thursday night and tells us, “At no time did anything happen that would have caused prison officials to consider stopping the execution.”
But other witnesses say it was obvious Smith struggled against the drugs as they were administered.
“He was gasping for breath, is what it appeared to be,” according to AL.com reporter and witness to the execution Kent Faulk.
A veteran reporter Faulk has witnessed 4 executions, including Smith's, and says this was the only time he has seen the inmate appear to struggle against the drugs.
“He coughed intermittently during a 13 minute period, is when he was struggling, gasping, appeared to be gasping for breath, holding his head up and open mouth,” Kent told WHNT News 19. He says Smith's attorneys, who witnessed the execution, described it as "botched."
Smith was checked for consciousness and sensitivity twice during the 34 minute execution, after the initial drug Midazolam had been administered. Smith's attorneys had challenged the use of the drug claiming it was insufficient to prevent the inmate from feeling the effects of the other two lethal drugs. A physician pronounced smith dead at 11:05 p.m. Thursday night. His body has been sent for an autopsy.
Midazolam was developed in the 1970's and is a very commonly used drug in the medical profession. It's commercial name is Versed. It's typically used for anesthesia, sedation, for patients who have trouble sleeping and even for patients who suffer from severe agitation.