After Three Botched Injections, Could the Firing Squad Return to Alabama?

felipe caparros /
felipe caparros /

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey must still have a bit of her old Democrat days left in her.

With three failed executions in the Cotton State since 2018, and two inside just October and November, something big needs to change with how Alabama puts its convicts to death. In order to scrub her past failures out of the system and the execution process, Ivey has requested Attorney General Steve Marshall withdraw a request for two execution dates, and not to file requests for other inmates until further notice.

Additionally, the Department of Corrections is being requested to give a full review of the way the state has been conducting executions.

The latest botch was on November 17th, when Kenneth Eugene Smith, was unable to be properly put to death. The failure here was also on display back in July when the state had a successful but three-hour delayed execution for the same reason; a failed IV line. With disdain in her voice, Ivey proclaimed how the state and the guards were not the real problems, but rather legal strategies and the crooks who sabotage the system are the real problem.

Corrections Commissioner John Hamm claimed via a written statement through the governor’s office that they are working on the problem and remain “confident that we can get this done right.” He went on to explain, “Everything is on the table — from our legal strategy in dealing with last-minute appeals, to how we train and prepare, to the order and timing of events on execution day, to the personnel and equipment involved.”

While his answer is nicely polished, it’s doing the same thing Gov. Ivey has been doing, and just passes the buck down the road and refuses to acknowledge the unprepared nature his office has for executions. He also left the door open for the idea of changing their execution strategy and bringing in one that won’t fail.

Unlike with the Alabama guards, lethal injection tends relatively simple, and not usually fouled up. The idea of bringing back classic methods has been considered in over the years, and while many states still have it on their books, lethal injection is the preferred method as most states don’t botch it up this bad. Given the current levels of failure, one method is being given high consideration.

A firing squad is a form of lethal injection that is nearly impossible to mess up, and it is instantaneous. While many governors consider it to be cruel and unusual, it has its place and given how much abuse and torture the latest executions have faced due to a failed IV, it should come back.

With today’s technology, laser-guided systems can ensure a clean, painless, and efficient death will be administered. For the families of the victims who are there to see the person who took the life of their loved one, it means justice is served quickly. Those who are there to see their relative off into death will see it happen quickly and with grace.

Of all the old methods, the firing squad and hanging are the most effective, but given the racial tones of hanging someone who is to be executed, it will never happen. As such, the firing squad makes the most sense for Governor Ivey and the people of Alabama. Then again, she can keep just failing at killing the criminals properly. A little extra suffering and botched executions might help discourage others from committing these heinous crimes.