clearn.png
Monday November 29th, 2021 5:53AM

No execution: Supco sides with inmate wanting pastor present

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATMORE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama inmate won a reprieve from a planned lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court said the state must allow his personal pastor in the death chamber.

Thursday's scheduled execution of Willie B. Smith III was called off by Alabama officials after the justices maintained an injunction issued by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying he could not be executed without his pastor present in chamber.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Samantha Rose said the execution would not proceed given the ruling. Alabama has maintained that non-prison staff should not be in the room for security reasons.

“Willie Smith is sentenced to death, and his last wish is to have his pastor with him as he dies,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in an opinion joined by three other justices, including Amy Coney Barrett.

“Alabama has not carried its burden of showing that the exclusion of all clergy members from the execution chamber is necessary to ensure prison security. So the State cannot now execute Smith without his pastor present, to ease what Smith calls the ‘transition between the worlds of the living and the dead,’” Kagan wrote.

The case was the latest in a series of legal fights over personal spiritual advisers at executions. The court in 2019 halted the execution of a Texas inmate who claimed his religious freedom would be violated if his Buddhist spiritual adviser was not allowed to be in the death chamber with him.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested in a dissent that states that want to avoid litigation on the issue “should figure out a way to allow spiritual advisors into the execution room, as other states and the federal government have done.”

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch did not disclose how they voted, but both would have had to side with Kavanaugh, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas for the execution to proceed.

If the execution had gone forward, it would have been the first by a state in 2021 and one of the few at the state level since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, no state has had an execution since last July 8.

Afterward, Smith was taken from a holding cell near the execution chamber and returned to his cell on death row, a prison spokeswoman said.

“The state is currently reviewing its options in light of last night’s Supreme Court order leaving the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ preliminary injunction in effect,” Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Attorney General Steve Marshall, wrote in an email.

Smith had sought to allow his spiritual adviser, Pastor Robert Wiley, in the execution chamber, something the state does not allow.

“Mr. Smith pled that he believes that the point of transition between life and death is important, and that having his spiritual advisor physically present at that moment is integral to his faith,” Smith’s lawyers wrote in court documents.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the Supreme Court has not ruled whether states are constitutionally required to permit a spiritual advisor in the execution chamber, but added that states, “can make this issue disappear simply by permitting a religious advisor to be present.”

“If they don’t, it will continue to be an issue until the Supreme Court rules on the substance of one of these claims, rather than issuing shadow-docket rulings to grant or vacate stays of execution or preliminary injunctions,” Dunham said.

In the past, Alabama routinely put a Christian prison chaplain, who was employed by the state, in the execution chamber to pray with an inmate if requested. The state stopped that practice after a Muslim inmate asked to have an imam present. The prison system, which did not have Muslim cleric on staff, said non-prison staff would not be allowed in the chamber.

Prosecutors said Smith abducted Johnson at gunpoint from an ATM, stole $80 from her and then took her to a cemetery where he shot her in the back of the head. The victim was the sister of a police detective.

“Over twenty-nine years ago, Smith gunned down a woman whose only crime was stopping to use the ATM,” attorneys for the state wrote in court documents seeking to let the lethal injection proceed.

Justices vacated another stay issued by the 11th Circuit related to Smith’s intellectual capacity. His lawyers argued the state failed to give the man, who has an IQ below 75, required assistance with forms affecting the timing of his execution. The Alabama attorney general’s office in court filings disputed that Smith is disabled and called it a last-minute delaying maneuver.

___

Associated Press writer Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this story.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Supreme Court News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump lawyers say Democratic impeachers just want vengeance
Lawyers for Donald Trump are making his impeachment defense by accusing Democrats of launching a campaign of “hatred” against the former president and manipulating his words in the lead-up to the deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol
4:41PM ( 1 minute ago )
The Latest: Senators question both sides in Trump trial
Senators are submitting written questions to the prosecution and the defense in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump
4:39PM ( 2 minutes ago )
Census: No redistricting data until end of September
The U.S. Census Bureau says it won’t be delivering data used for redrawing congressional, state and local legislative districts until the end of September
4:32PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Trump defense wraps up case in three hours
The defense attorneys for Donald Trump have wrapped up their presentation in the former president’s impeachment trial
3:52PM ( 49 minutes ago )
Trump lawyers say Democrats urge supporters to 'fight,' too
Lawyers for Donald Trump are making his impeachment defense by accusing Democrats of launching a campaign of “hatred” against the former president and manipulating his words in the lead-up to the deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol
3:51PM ( 50 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump defense wraps up closing in three hours
The defense attorneys for Donald Trump have wrapped up their presentation in the former president’s impeachment trial
3:42PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Biden: Governors, mayors need $350 billion to fight COVID-19
President Joe Biden has met with a bipartisan group of governors and mayors at the White House as part of his push to give financial relief from the coronavirus pandemic to state and local governments
3:28PM ( 1 hour ago )
Czechs in chaos with political infighting amid virus surge
The Czech Republic is in chaos after Parliament deprived the government of a powerful tool to tackle the coronavirus pandemic
3:07PM ( 1 hour ago )
Biden: Governors and mayors need $350 billion to fight COVID
President Joe Biden has met with a bipartisan group of governors and mayors at the White House as part of his push to give financial relief from the coronavirus pandemic to state and local governments
2:26PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Attorneys spar over powers held by Britney Spears' father
Attorneys for Britney Spears and her father sparred at a court hearing over how he should share power with a financial company newly appointed as his partner in the conservatorship that controls his daughter's money
9:36PM ( 19 hours ago )
AP-NORC poll: Few in US say democracy is working very well
Only a fragment of Americans believe democracy is thriving in the U.S., even as broad majorities agree that representative government is one of the country’s bedrock principles
8:00AM ( 4 days ago )
West Virginia GOP fractured by political appointment feud
West Virginia's Republican party is fracturing amid a feud over a political appointment
6:19PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Online Supreme Court News
Census: No redistricting data until end of September
The U.S. Census Bureau says it won’t be delivering data used for redrawing congressional, state and local legislative districts until the end of September
4:32PM ( 9 minutes ago )
CDC: Strong evidence in-person schooling can be done safely
The nation’s top public health agency says in-person schooling can be done safely with mask use, social distancing and other strategies
4:30PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Pentagon approves 20 more COVID-19 vaccination teams
The Pentagon has approved the deployment of 20 more military vaccination teams that will be prepared to go out to communities around the country
4:22PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Lawyer defending Trump accustomed to political disaster
A onetime rising-star prosecutor from suburban Philadelphia made something of a comeback earlier this week in heading to the well of the U.S. Senate to defend Donald Trump in the ex-president’s second impeachment trial
4:03PM ( 38 minutes ago )
Biden to slowly allow 25,000 people seeking asylum into US
The Biden administration says an estimated 25,000 people who are seeking asylum and have been forced to wait in Mexico will be allowed into the U.S. while their cases wind through immigration courts
4:02PM ( 40 minutes ago )