Execution proceeds without incident

Published 7:25 pm Monday, December 16, 2002

By By James Crawford
News Editor
Alabama's first execution by means of lethal injection went without incident on Thursday at Holman Prison in Atmore.
After exhausting last minute appeals, 46-year-old Anthony Keith Johnson was the first person to die by lethal injection in Alabama since the state switched its primary means of executing death row inmates from electrocution.
Johnson was convicted of the 1984 capital murder of a Hartselle jeweler. The jury that convicted him in 1985 recommended that he spend the rest of his life in prison, but a judge overturned the recommendation and sentenced him to death.
According to Warden Grantt Culliver, Johnson's last stay of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was turned down at approximately 4:45 p.m. and his request for clemency from Gov. Don Siegelman was turned down at about the same time.
At approximately 5:50 p.m. Johnson was escorted to the death chamber and began the process of being strapped in and having the needles inserted into his arms. At about 6 p.m. the curtain was opened to the witnesses and the death warrant was read by Culliver.
On hand to witness the death were Rev. Thomas Elder, pastor of Oak Ridge and Basham United Methodist Churches in Hartselle and Johnson's friend George Dudley, as well as five media representatives.
According to Culliver, when asked if he had any official last statement, Johnson said no, but he made an offhand comment to his friends that "he loved them, but they knew that anyway."
Johnson spent most of his last day spending time with family and friends in the prison yard. He turned down a last meal request, instead choosing to eat snacks from the vending machines. "He was upbeat throughout the day," Culliver said.
When asked to compare the states newest primary means of execution Culliver said, "There's no easy way to execute a person, but electrocution seems to be more immediate. Public sentiment is that lethal injection is more humane though. The process [lethal injection] is more complicated and a lot more intricate. You can have more little things go wrong. The process is longer and more technical."
Alabama currently has 162 death row inmates at Holman prison, three of which are current in the process of undergoing appeals and new motions.

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