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August 15, 2022

Disconcerting reports about what transpired during recent Alabama execution

A press report on the July 28 execution of Joe Nathan James in Alabama, reprinted in this post, noted that the "execution began a few minutes after 9 p.m. CDT following a nearly three-hourts have started to fill in some ugly details of what transpired during this delay.  For example:

From The Atlantic, "Dead to Rights: What did the state of Alabama do to Joe Nathan James in the three hours before his execution?":

James, it appeared, had suffered a long death. The state seems to have attempted to insert IV catheters into each of his hands just above the knuckles, resulting in broad smears of violet bruising.  Then it looked as though the execution team had tried again, forcing needles into each of his wrists, with the same bleeding beneath the skin and the same indigo mottling around the puncture wounds.  On the inside of James’s left arm, another puncture site, another pool of deep bruising, and then, a scant distance above, a strange, jagged incision, at James’s inner elbow.  The laceration met another cut at an obtuse angle.  That longer, narrower slice was part of a parallel pair, which matched a fainter, shallower set of parallel cuts.  Underneath the mutilated portion of James’s arm was what appeared to be yet another puncture — a noticeable crimson pinprick in the center of a radiating blue-green bruise. Other, less clear marks littered his arm as well.

From AL.com, "Joe Nathan James ‘suffered a long death’ in botched Alabama execution, magazine alleges":

Alabama prison officials spent hours searching for a vein that could be used to deliver lethal drugs in the execution of Joe Nathan James on July 28, according to a recent article in the Atlantic.  Staff punctured his hands, wrists and elbows several times before finally cutting open his arm to expose a vein, according to reporting by Elizabeth Bruenig.

Bruenig attended an independent autopsy performed several days after James’ death and funded by the human rights group Reprieve U.S. “James, it appeared, had suffered a long death,” she wrote.

From The Guardian, "Alabama subjected prisoner to ‘three hours of pain’ during execution – report":

Alabama’s execution of Joe Nathan James Jr last month may have taken longer than any other lethal injection in recorded American history, and no death penalty ever administered in the US may have taken quite as long, according to an analysis by a human rights organization.

An examination by Reprieve US of James’s execution estimates that it took Alabama officials between three and three and a half hours to carry out the lethal injection, a duration that the organization argues violates constitutional protections against inhumane punishments.

August 15, 2022 at 09:41 PM | Permalink


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Posted by: جهان بهتر | Aug 16, 2022 9:13:19 AM

The first comment seems oddly appropriate for another wholly one-sided story.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 16, 2022 10:26:04 AM

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Doug --

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Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 16, 2022 11:56:00 AM

It is spam - it's a known bot - don't ask how I know, I just know. One search yields this verbiage, "Group works in the field of personal success and improvement. Islamic Republic of Iran jahanebehtar.com Joined January 2019."

Posted by: atomicfrog | Aug 16, 2022 12:03:06 PM

I doubt I'm alone in wanting to hear more about what the AL DOC has to say about this episode. Know of any sources on that?

Posted by: John | Aug 16, 2022 3:42:55 PM

If the facts are as reported above, this was an inhumane and cruel three-hour torture- execution. Makes a mockery of the administration of justice.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Aug 16, 2022 6:13:24 PM

absolutely sickening-- uncivilized and barbaric.

Posted by: anon12 | Aug 16, 2022 9:19:50 PM

I am frustrated with both sides on this issue. It is not difficult to figure out a humane way to execute someone without reliance on particularly failable procedures (firing a number of bullets into the back of the head being the most obvious, but not only, option). The left treats botched executions as a means of drumming up abolitionist support rather than seeking the welfare of those whose executions are imminent. The right tries to hide behind a faux medical procedure rather than forthrightly acknowledging that capital punishment is violence in the state's name. Neither did right by Mr. James.

Ironically, many more executions would have been carried out in the past ten years if the right was not fixated on hiding the violent nature of the act.

Posted by: Jason | Aug 17, 2022 10:45:40 PM

They should do better, although the wailing and gnashing of teeth is over the top. Ever been given an IV and they can’t find the vein? No big deal. It’s just a small prick. So, they had to make a small incision, while almost surely given a topical numbing agent.

Tens of million die in much more grisly ways every year. Hell, most of us will. Ever watch a family member die from cancer, ALS, or Alzheimer’s?

This guy got off easy.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 18, 2022 9:47:40 AM

TarlsQtr, your remarkably callous remarks sound just like what torturers have always said to justify their cruelty.

Posted by: anon13 | Aug 18, 2022 11:52:29 AM


I don’t find it callous at all, merely factual. Expecting the process of death to be completely sanitized is a fairy tale. It’s always ugly. How many truly painless deaths are there? I have had family member die from all three ailments I previously listed. They would have begged to die in the manner this guy did.

Of course we should attempt to make it as painless as possible, but I’m not going to get worked up over some pin pricks and a small incision with a numbing agent.

The reports are disingenuous. It’s not about the “how.” It’s about him being executed at all and they are not honest enough to say it.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 18, 2022 3:38:31 PM

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