State Watch

Federal appeals court blocks Alabama inmate’s Thursday execution

A federal appeals court on Wednesday blocked the execution of an Alabama inmate scheduled for Thursday, ruling that the man was not given a chance to properly choose his execution method, The Associated Press reported.

A three-judge panel sided with a lower court that blocked his execution, ruling that inmate Matthew Reeves could not be put to death until the state uses a new execution method, nitrogen hypoxia. 

Reeves was convicted of murder in 1996 for the killing of Willie Johnson, who died by a shot gun blast to the neck during a robbery, AP reported. Johnson reportedly picked Reeves up on the side of a highway to give him a ride. 

Reeves was later accused of celebrating the killing, with witnesses saying that Reeves mimicked the dying man at a party shortly after his death. At the time, they also claimed that his hands were still stained with blood.

Reeves was granted a stay of execution by U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. after lawyers for Reeves argued that he had an intellectual disability and was not given proper assistance in filling out critical paperwork. They argued this was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

He did not make a selection on a form that asked his preferred method of execution, a decision between lethal injection or nitrogen hypoxia. Reeves later claimed he would have chosen the latter, AP noted.

“Notably, this is not a case where a defendant has asked a district court to enjoin a state from executing him altogether, regardless of the method of execution,” the appeals court wrote in its ruling, according to The Montgomery Advertiser.

“Mr. Reeves requested only that the court prevent the [Alabama Department of Corrections] from executing him by any method other than the one he would have chosen but for the defendants’ alleged violation of the ADA, pending resolution of his ADA claim.”

The appeals panel ruled that any delays in Reeves’s execution are the fault of the state’s slow rollout of its new execution system.

Following the ruling, the Alabama state attorney general’s office said it would continue to push for Reeves’s execution by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the AP.

Tags Alabama execution Lethal injection matthew reeves
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