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Attorneys seek to block Alabama execution

By Garry Mitchell
Associated Press Writer

MOBILE — On the eve of Luther Jerome Williams’ scheduled execution, his attorneys sought an order Wednesday from the U.S. Supreme Court to block it and give him time to pursue a constitutional challenge of Alabama’s use of lethal injection.

The high court appeal follows a 2-1 ruling Tuesday by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals not to delay the Birmingham man’s execution for a 1988 murder on an interstate in Tuscaloosa County. State’s attorneys contend Williams has exhausted his appeals and the execution should proceed without delay.

It’s unclear when the Supreme Court will decide whether to grant a stay of execution.

In a response filed Wednesday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw asked the high court to deny a stay, citing prior court rulings that favored the state in this and similar “imminent execution” cases.

Williams, 47, is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Thursday at Holman prison in Atmore. He was sentenced to death for the robbery and shooting death of John Robert Kirk on Jan. 23, 1988.

Kirk of Gordo was led into the woods and shot in the head and robbed when he stopped his truck along Interstate 59 while driving home from work in Helena.

Two others convicted in the Kirk murder received life sentences. Trosky Eric Gregory, 43, was paroled in 2005, but returned to prison earlier this year after his parole was revoked. Albert Carmichael Jr., 44, was paroled in 2004.

In the Supreme Court appeal, Williams’ attorneys said the inmate filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of Alabama’s lethal injection protocols five months ago. State’s attorneys claim he waited too late to raise the issue.

‘Necessary safeguards’

Williams contends the execution procedures lack the “medically necessary safeguards to ensure that he will remain fully anaesthetized throughout the execution.”

As a result of that, he claims in his Supreme Court action that he will suffer “excruciating pain” during the injection, which would violate his constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

State’s attorneys defend the execution procedure, pointing out that two emergency medical technicians are present to prepare the inmate for the injection. The state’s attorneys say the procedure does not create “a significant and unnecessary risk” that an inmate will suffer pain.

Crenshaw said Williams never filed any evidence to support his claims on lethal injection.

U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in Montgomery earlier dismissed Williams’ claim and the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit agreed with the dismissal. The 11th Circuit’s majority decision said Williams didn’t sue until five years after Alabama began using lethal injection.

“Both the State and the victim’s family have a strong interest in the timely enforcement of Williams’ death sentence,” Judge Joel Dubina wrote in the majority decision.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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