ATMORE, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama has abandoned its effort to execute Kenneth Eugene Smith, at least for the immediate future.
CBS 42 will provide live updates below from Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, where the state’s death row and execution chamber are located.
More recent updates will appear toward the top of the page.
12:00 a.m. — The State of Alabama abandoned its attempt to execute Kenneth Smith at approximately 11:21 p.m., according to the state’s prisons commissioner.
“We started our protocol and by 11:21 we decided we would not be able to finish that protocol by the midnight hour when the death penalty expires,” the commissioner told members of the media.
Hamm said that the state’s “execution team” was able to gain access to one vein, but their lethal injection protocol requires access to two. The state began a “central line procedure” but did not have time to complete it, he said.
Hamm would not answer questions about the number of times Smith had been prodded before the execution was called off, although he confirmed they attempted vein access in “several” locations for about an hour.
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm comments on the case of Kenneth Smith, who was scheduled to be executed by the state this evening. https://t.co/fy1Q6rgZxO— Lee Hedgepeth (@lee_hedgepeth) November 18, 2022
11:20 p.m. — It appears the State of Alabama may not proceed with the execution of Kenneth Smith tonight. “Stand down,” one prison official said. Press witnesses are now back in the media center. No formal update has been provided. A prison official said the Alabama Department of Corrections’ commissioner is expected to provide an update shortly.
10:24 p.m. — The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a stay of Kenneth Smith’s execution. The State of Alabama appears prepared to move forward with his lethal injection. It will have limited time to carry out the death sentence, as the warrant authorizing it expires at midnight.
9:37 p.m. — The death warrant authorizing Kenneth Smith’s execution expires at midnight. If and when the U.S. Supreme Court lifts the stay currently preventing the lethal injection, Alabama will have limited time to carry out the death sentence.
8:27 p.m. — Alabama has formally appealed Kenneth Smith’s stay of execution to the U.S. Supreme Court. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has asked the court to act “swiftly” so Smith’s execution can take place before midnight when his death warrant expires.
8:03 p.m. — The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Kenneth Smith a stay of execution. For now, the lethal injection is off. A prison official has said the state plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against Smith just yesterday.
6:39 p.m. — Kenneth Smith has filed an appeal of a lower court ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Eleventh Circuit ruled in Smith’s favor earlier today but a decision about a stay of execution was left to the lower court, which refused to delay the lethal injection. Now Smith is asking the federal appeals court to put a stay of execution in place. Soon, Smith’s appeal could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against the death row inmate just yesterday.
6:31 p.m. — Alabama prison officials have not yet moved to escort members of the media to Holman’s execution chamber. Smith’s execution was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., but his final appeals are still winding their way through federal courts. Meanwhile, the world is watching Alabama as it prepares to execute Smith. Below is a drawing by Smith, exclusive to CBS 42. Smith has already spent more than 33 years in jail for his crimes.
5:58 p.m. — A federal district court judge has denied Kenneth Smith’s motion to prevent his execution. The decision comes after a federal appeals court ruled in his favor. Smith’s attorney, Robert Grass, said Smith plans to appeal the ruling.
5:45 p.m. — As of this writing, there is currently no stay of execution preventing the lethal injection of Kenneth Smith from beginning as scheduled at 6 p.m. despite an appeals court ruling earlier today in his favor. A ruling is expected from a district court judge on an emergency stay, but it hasn’t come down yet. So far, prison officials have not begun the process of moving media witnesses to Holman’s death chamber.
5:30 p.m. — Alabama prison officials have released limited information to media related to Kenneth Smith’s visitors and meals over the last 24 hours. He was visited by several family members and a spiritual advisor.
3:45 p.m. — U.S. District Court Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. held a telephone hearing after following an appeals court ruling reversing his earlier decision. Huffaker is expected to rule soon on Smith’s motion to enjoin Alabama from executing Smith by lethal injection.
3:00 p.m. — The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a lower court should have allowed Kenneth Smith to file an amended complaint.
“Under a de novo review, we find that Smith’s proposed amended complaint states a plausible claim for relief that was brought within the statute of limitations,” the court ruled. “The district court should have allowed Smith to file his proposed amended complaint. Thus, the district court erred in denying Smith’s motion for leave to amend his complaint on the ground that amendment would be futile.”
Smith’s legal team will likely now ask that lower court to halt this evening’s scheduled execution, but as of right now, the lethal injection is set to proceed.
10 a.m. — On Wednesday night, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Kenny Smith’s appeal for a stay of execution. Barring further action by a court, Smith is set to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Smith’s application for a stay of execution, presented to Justice Thomas and referred to the entire court, was denied around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. No justices noted their dissents to the decision.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a case concerning Smith. That court had not yet ruled on Smith’s appeal.
Smith has alleged that – given Alabama’s recent execution difficulties – attempting to execute him may violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In oral arguments before the Eleventh Circuit on Wednesday, federal appeals court judges questioned Thomas Wilson, a lawyer representing Alabama, about Smith’s allegations that the state’s repeated attempts to access his veins may violate the constitution.
“Three hours?” One judge asked Alabama’s lawyer. “Does the protocol specify how long the execution team can attempt to access a vein before moving to a central line? Does it say anything about how long you can do it? Can you do it 6 hours?”
Alabama’s counsel would not provide an amount of time or number of needle prods that would be inappropriate under Alabama law or the U.S. Constitution.
“The protocol does not specify how long one can search for a vein,” the attorney responded.
Alabama abandoned its last attempt to execute a death row inmate after issues accessing the man’s veins. That night, prison officials did not reveal any difficulties in their attempted execution of Alan Miller, only later providing a limited explanation for the hours-long delay in the commencement of that lethal injection.
In 1996, Kenneth Smith was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot that led to the death of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett in her Colbert County home. A jury recommended 11-1 that Smith should receive a sentence of life without parole, but a judge overrode that verdict and sentenced Smith to death.
“If Smith’s trial had occurred today, he would not be eligible for execution,” a federal appeals court wrote in 2021.