Why was Joe Nathan James Jr's execution delayed? Alabama death row inmate had sought to die by nitrogen hypoxia

Why was Joe Nathan James Jr's execution delayed? Alabama death row inmate had sought to die by nitrogen hypoxia
Alabama Governor announced that she has decided the state will move forward with the plan of executing Joe Nathan James Jr (Alabama Department of Corrections)

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: Joe Nathan James Jr was sentenced to death for the murder of his 26-year-old ex-girlfriend Faith Hall in Birmingham in 1994. While Hall's family requested to terminate his death sentence, the court did not find that fit. Nathan received a lethal injection at a south Alabama prison after the US Supreme Court denied his request for a stay. His bid for stay was dismissed 30 minutes before his execution. However, his execution was delayed by three hours and the official explanation was never given, up until Friday, July 29.

The Alabama Department of Corrections explained the delay in Nathan's execution in an e-mailed statement to AP, "The protocol states that if the veins are such that intravenous access cannot be provided, the team will perform a central line procedure. Fortunately, this was not necessary and with adequate time, intravenous access was established." While the statement seemed a bit ambiguous, a prison systems spokesperson confirmed that the delay was due to the time required to establish the IV connection. Previously, Hall’s daughter Terryln Hall urged officials to cancel Joe Nathan's execution, which she revealed in a telephonic interview with AP saying, "I know it may sound crazy. Like, you want this man to live? But ... I just feel like we can't play God. We can't take a life. And it's not going to bring my mom back."


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At the time of his execution, it was reported that he did not make any special requests, had no visitors but had three phone calls with attorneys. He also refused the option of the last meal. 

Faith Hall's family urged the court to let Joe Nathan, the one to kill Hall, live. (Photo: @MAnotGinger/Twitter)
Faith Hall's family urged the court to let Joe Nathan, the one to kill Hall, live. (Photo: @MAnotGinger/Twitter)

Joe Nathan James Jr's execution delayed

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, wrote in an email Friday, July 29, "Three-hour delays in carrying out executions after all court issues have been resolved are not normal." Dunham continued, "They don’t happen unless something has gone wrong or the state is not properly prepared," explaining that the delay of that length is unusual normally compared to the executions conducted in Alabama. He further continued highlighting the need for greater transparency in such cases saying, "In a truly transparent system, the media would be able to witness the attempts to set an IV line. If it took three hours to set an IV line, that’s a huge problem — reminiscent of the Doyle Lee Hamm botched execution attempt." Back in 2018, Doyle Lee Hamm's execution was called off after the staff had trouble finding a suitable vein for the intravenous line.  

On Thursday, July 28, Alabama Corrections Commissioner told the press that nothing out of the blue happened. When asked if there was difficulty in finding a vein during James’ lethal injection, Hamm said: "I don’t know." He told the reporters, "I can’t overemphasize this process. We’re carrying out the ultimate punishment, the execution of an inmate. And we have protocols and we’re very deliberate in our process, and making sure everything goes, according to plan. So if that takes a few minutes or a few hours, that’s what we do." The reporters were taken to Holman prison by van at about 6.30 pm to see the execution which did not take place until 9 pm.

Joe Nathan acted as his own attorney as he filed the latest appeal with the US supreme court on his behalf but was rejected 30 minutes before the execution. Nathan was pronounced dead at 9.27 pm. He had previously sought a stay, noting Hall’s family sought clemency and arguing that Alabama did not give inmates adequate notice of their right to select an alternative execution method after lawmakers approved nitrogen hypoxia as a new execution method. He reportedly argued that inmates did not know what was at stake when they were given a selection form without any explanation. The state is not scheduling executions for inmates who selected nitrogen as it has not developed a system for using nitrogen to carry out death sentences.

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