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LIVE UPDATES: Alabama set to execute James Barber
The state abandoned its last two attempts at lethal injection after issues accessing veins.
Alabama plans to begin its attempts to execute James Barber at 6 p.m. today.
Tread’s Lee Hedgepeth will witness the execution at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, should it proceed. Live updates will be posted below, with newer posts closer to the top.
If you are reading this article in your e-mail, you must click the story on Tread’s website for live updates.
1:56 a.m. — James Barber has been executed by the State of Alabama. His time of death was 1:56 a.m., according to a prison official.
1:00 a.m. — Members of the media are headed to Holman.
12:40 a.m. — The nation’s highest court has cleared the way for Barber’s execution, but the state hasn’t yet begun to move press to Holman.
When the state is ready to proceed, members of the media will be moved by van inside the gates of Holman prison, where the state’s death row is located.
12:15 a.m. — The U.S. Supreme Court has denied James Barber's application for a stay of execution. The court's 3 liberal justices dissented, saying the court shouldn't allow Alabama to let James Barber be its "guinea pig."
“The Court should not allow Alabama to test the efficacy of its internal review by using Barber as its ‘guinea pig,’” the justices wrote. “It should grant Barber’s application for a stay of his execution.”
Prison officials haven’t yet begun to move the media by van inside Holman’s gates.
12:00 a.m. — The traditional midnight deadline for Alabama execution warrants has passed, but a recent rule change allows prison officials until 6 a.m. to begin the state’s lethal injection of James Barber.
11:00 p.m. — Alabama was scheduled to execute James Barber five hours ago, but state prison officials are still waiting on a Supreme Court ruling as to whether his lethal injection can move forward.
Unlike in the past, there is no midnight deadline for executions. Instead, prison officials have until 6 a.m. on Friday to begin the lethal injection.
9:30 p.m. — Still no word from the U.S. Supreme Court, who will ultimately decide Barber’s fate today. His execution was tentatively set to begin at 6 a.m., but the state has until 6 a.m. Friday to carry out the lethal injection.
8:00 p.m. — Prison officials are still waiting on a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court before proceeding.
Linked here is the execution protocol that applies to Barber, which was released as part of his lawsuit against the state.
7:22 p.m. — Reporters set to witness the execution of James Barber are still in a holding pattern at a small media center outside Holman Correctional Facility in south Alabama, awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether Alabama’s lethal injection of James Barber can proceed. So far, federal courts have rejected Barber’s appeals.
Alabama has until 6 a.m. to execute Barber after a rule change extended the state’s traditional midnight deadline.
Despite Alabama's complaints about time constraints surrounding executions, often blaming it on the condemned, however, they chose to tentatively set James Barber's execution to begin at 6 p.m., 18 hours into the 30-hour execution timeframe set by Gov. Ivey.
6:31 p.m. — A federal district court has ruled that Barber’s attorney must be allowed to bring pen and paper to witness her client’s execution. The judge, though, denied the lawyer’s request to bring a watch into the facility, citing an ADOC policy banning jewelry.
6:15 p.m. — Kelly Betts, public information officer for the Alabama Department of Corrections, provided the following written information related to Barber’s activities over the last day.
The witnesses for the victim requested anonymity. There were four witnesses for the condemned inmate: Glen Barber, brother; Elizabeth Bruenig, friend; John Gallo, attorney, and Mara Rose Easterbrook Klebaner, attorney. Five members of the media were witnesses as well as several state witnesses.
On July 19, 2023, Barber had 10 visitors and six phone calls. On July 20, 2023, he had 22 visitors and 2 phone calls. On July 20, he refused breakfast, ate snacks, drank beverages, and had a final meal of Loaded Hashbrowns, Western Omelet, Spicy Sausage, and White Toast.
6:05 p.m. — An Alabama prison official confirmed to Tread that the state will not yet move forward with James Barber's execution, which was tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. There is technically no stay in place preventing the lethal injection, but we're awaiting a Supreme Court ruling in the case.
5:05 p.m. — James Barber has just filed his reply to Alabama's brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is asking the court to stay his execution, scheduled to begin in less than an hour. His lawyers wrote that Alabama misrepresented the issue in the case.
5:00 p.m. — James Barber's final visitors have just left, a source inside the prison told Tread. Barber is likely being moved back to the death cell now, where he'll wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether it will allow Alabama to move forward with his execution at 6 p.m.
3:15 p.m. — The State of Alabama has filed its opposition to Barber’s request for the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his execution. Lawyers for the state argue the court shouldn’t take the case at all.
“Petitioner James Edward Barber is entitled to neither a stay of his execution nor a grant of his petition for a writ of certiorari,” Alabama’s brief said.
11:46 a.m. — James Barber has applied for a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court.
“James Edward Barber is scheduled to be executed starting at 6:00 pm CT today by a method that is very likely to cause him needless pain and suffering,” Barber’s lawyers wrote in the filing.
Barber's fate now lies in the hands of the court’s nine justices.
10 a.m. — Will James Barber soon become the state’s “guinea pig?”
Alabama’s previous two attempts to execute its citizens through lethal injection led to the repeated poking and prodding of the condemned men — Alan Miller and Kenny Smith — but did not lead to their deaths. Difficulty establishing vein access by members of the execution team led to the state’s failure to carry out its grim mission, officials would later confirm.
In the wake of those failures, Barber argued that an attempted execution by lethal injection would violate the Constitution. Instead, Barber requested that his death come by nitrogen suffocation, an untested, unregulated method of execution allowed by Alabama law.
A federal court, however, rejected Barber’s argument, writing that changes to the death penalty process — for example, an effective 6-hour extension of the timeframe executioners will have to establish vein access — mean that the man’s situation differs substantially from those of Smith or Miller. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed that view with Wednesday’s opinion, leaving only the U.S. Supreme Court the last place Barber could seek relief.
In her dissent, Pryor wrote that Barber’s appeal would likely succeed if he were allowed to seek evidence from the Alabama Department of Corrections related to its three-month “review” of the execution process that came after the botched executions.
“After a three-month ‘review’ of its procedures— conducted entirely internally, entirely outside the scope of any court’s or the public’s scrutiny, and without saying what went wrong or what it fixed as a result—ADOC swears it is ready to try again, with Mr. Barber as its guinea pig,” Pryor wrote on Wednesday.
Barber was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2001 murder of Dorothy “Dottie” Epps in Harvest, Alabama.
In the decades since, Barber said he’s received something he never expected to find — forgiveness.
“I did not deserve it. I could not earn it. But I could not and will not ever take it for granted,” Barber recently said.
Barring action by the U.S. Supreme Court or Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama is scheduled to begin its attempts to execute James Barber at 6 p.m.
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