Federal court dismisses trial in Willie B. Smith death penalty case, execution to move forward – WKRG News 5

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (WIAT) – A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by death row Willie B. Smith, who was due to stand trial in 2022.

Smith’s lawsuit was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds in a ruling by Judge Emily Marks on Friday. He claimed Smith’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated when prison officials failed to provide him with an accommodation that made it easier for him to understand a form asking the death row inmate if he wanted opt for execution by hypoxia with nitrogen.

Smith’s IQ, according to experts, is around 70.

“A large-scale IQ score of around 70 to 75 indicates significant limitation in intellectual functioning,” according to the American Psychological Association.

In a 2002 case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the execution of people with such disabilities was “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the United States Constitution. The method by which Smith was found eligible for execution was also found to be unconstitutional, in a case called Moore v. Texas, but the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said the decision came too late to impact Smith.

“What is tragic about Mr Smith’s case is that the decision of whether his poor intellectual functioning makes him ineligible for the death penalty was based on outdated and flawed analysis,” said Equal Justice Initiative, a not-for-profit organization based in Montgomery. “It is a simple technical matter that the Supreme Court established the appropriate scientific analysis in 2017, but the Eleventh Circuit nonetheless ruled that Moore did not apply to Mr. Smith’s case because it was decided after the ruling. state court. The court wrote that its denial of relief on Mr. Smith’s claim was “a matter of timing.”

Execution through the use of nitrogen hypoxia was approved by the Alabama state legislature in 2018, but required sentenced inmates to opt for the method. Only two other states, Oklahoma and Mississippi, allow the practice. An execution using the method, which consists of replacing the oxygen required for respiration with nitrogen gas, has never been carried out in the United States.

In the latest Federal District Court ruling, Judge Marks ruled that as the form distributed by prison authorities was not required, but only helped death row inmates choose death from hypoxia to the nitrogen, ADA housing was not required. Smith, she said, could have opted for the protocol “by whatever writing he chose.”

Smith’s attorney, John Palombi, told CBS 42 they plan to appeal the ruling.

In 1991, Smith was convicted of the murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson, the sister of a Birmingham police detective. His execution, scheduled for October 21, will continue unless further legal action is taken.

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