Alabama called off the scheduled execution of a man convicted in a 1988 murder-for-hire after having trouble establishing venous access in time to meet the state’s deadline to start the execution. This marks the second time since September the state has canceled an execution due to difficulties placing an IV with a deadline looming.
Earlier Thursday, Kenneth Eugene Smith was issued a stay of execution by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after he raised concerns about problems with vein access at the state’s last two scheduled lethal injections.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order lifting the stay around 10:20 p.m., about 90 minutes before the state’s midnight deadline to get the execution underway.
Prison staff tried for about an hour to connect the two required intravenous lines to Smith, but were only able to establish one, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm told the Associated Press.
After unsuccessfully trying to establish a second line, officials decided to try a central line, which involves placing a catheter into a large vein, Hamm said.
“We were not able to have time to complete that, so we called off the execution,” Hamm said.
Smith, 57, was sentenced to death for his role in the 1988 murder of Elizabeth Sennett.
According to prosecutors, Smith was one of two men hired to kill Sennett on behalf of her husband, who was in debt and wanted to collect the insurance payout.
On March 18, 1988, Sennett was found dead in the couple’s home in Colbert County, Alabama.
Her husband, Charles Sennett Sr., a pastor of the Westside Church of Christ, killed himself about a week after his wife’s death when the investigation began to focus on him, according to court documents.
John Forrest Parker, the other man convicted in the killing, was executed in 2010.
“Some three decades ago, a promise was made to Elizabeth’s family that justice would be served through a lawfully imposed death sentence,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said in a statement following the cancellation of the execution.
“Although that justice could not be carried out tonight because of last minute legal attempts to delay or cancel the execution, attempting it was the right thing to do,” the statement continued. “My prayers are with the victim’s children and grandchildren as they are forced to relive their tragic loss.”