The Latest: Prison commissioner: No evidence inmate suffered

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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 5:21 PM
The Latest: Prison commissioner: No evidence inmate suffered

ATMORE, Ala. (AP) — The Latest on the execution in Alabama of a man convicted of killing a store clerk (all times local):

4:20 p.m.

Alabama's prison commissioner says there were no visible signs that an inmate suffered during an execution this week.

Commissioner Jeff Dunn issued the statement Friday on the execution of inmate Ronald Bert Smith, Jr.

Dunn says Smith coughed early in the execution Thursday night, "but at no time ...was there observational evidence that he suffered."

Witnesses reported that the 45-year-old prisoner heaved and coughed repeatedly for 13 minutes during the execution. His hand also appeared to move slightly after a consciousness test.

Smith's attorneys say his movements demonstrate that he wasn't anesthetized.

Dunn said prison officials followed an established protocol that's been upheld by the courts. He said an autopsy will determine if there were any irregularities.

Smith was executed for killing convenience store clerk Casey Wilson during a 1994 robbery.

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1:40 p.m.

Lawyers for an Alabama inmate who was put to death Thursday say movements he made demonstrate that he wasn't anesthetized during the execution.

Alabama inmate Robert Bert Smith Jr. was executed using an injection of the drug midazolam. Execution witnesses reported that the 45-year-old prisoner heaved, coughed and appeared to move during tests meant to determine consciousness.

Smith's lawyers said in an email Friday that they believe two doses of midazolam were administered to sedate him. The Department of Corrections won't say whether a second dose was given.

Alabama uses a three-drug execution protocol with the first drug meant to sedate the inmate, the second to paralyze the lungs and stop breathing and the third to stop the heart.

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11:40 a.m.

Critics of a lethal injection drug that has been used in problematic executions in several states say Thursday's execution in Alabama provides more evidence that it shouldn't be used to put inmates to death.

Alabama inmate Robert Bert Smith Jr. was executed using an injection of the drug midazolam. Execution witnesses reported that the 45-year-old prisoner heaved, coughed and appeared to move during tests meant to determine consciousness.

Robert Dunham is executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. He said medical experts have repeatedly said midazolam is not designed to render a person unconscious and insensate, and witness accounts of Smith's execution indicate that it did not.

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6:20 a.m.

Thirteen minutes into his execution by injection, an Alabama inmate heaved and coughed and appeared to move during tests meant to determine consciousness.

Forty-five-year-old Ronald Bert Smith Jr. was finally pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m. Thursday — about 30 minutes after the procedure began at the state prison in southwest Alabama.

Alabama uses the sedative midazolam as the first drug in a three-drug lethal injection combination. Smith and other inmates argued in a court case that the drug is an unreliable sedative and could cause them to feel pain, citing its use in problematic executions. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of the drug.

Smith was convicted of capital murder in the Nov. 8, 1994, fatal shooting of Huntsville store clerk Casey Wilson.