House OKs bill reinstating electric chair

Published 8:19 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Alabama House of Representatives Wednesday evening approved legislation that would revive the use of Holman Prison’s “Yellow Mama” in executions should the state be unable to execute inmates via lethal injection.

The state has been unable to stock the drugs needed for lethal injection as pharmaceutical companies have become wary of the adverse publicity they might receive worldwide for providing the drugs.

An amendment added to the floor would also keep the names of manufacturers of death penalty drugs secret, a measure brought last year as a separate bill.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, sponsored the bill, which he said was modeled on a similar bill passed in Tennessee last year.

The measure passed 76 to 26. Black lawmakers argued against the bill, challenging the death penalty in general, as well as the need for the new legislation.

“Something bothers me in my conscience that we are willing to bend over backwards in so many ways to kill people and pretend it’s justice, when it’s not,” said Rep. Christopher England, D-Tuscaloosa.

At present, there are 195 inmates on Alabama’s death row. The state has not conducted an execution since July 25, 2013, due to drug shortages and legal challenges.

A federal court last month stayed the execution of Thomas Arthur, a death row inmate convicted in 1982 in a murder-for-hire scheme. Arthur has challenged the state’s execution protocols, arguing that the sedatives involved would not render him unconscious quickly enough to avoid the pain of two subsequent drugs that paralyze the muscles and stop the heart.

Alabama switched its primary method of execution from the electric chair to lethal injection in 2002, in part due to concerns that the chair would be ruled unconstitutional by the federal courts.

The Montgomery Advertiser, The Anniston Star and the Associated Press last year filed Freedom of Information Act requests on the state’s execution protocol, which are publicly available in other states, including Florida. The Alabama Department of Corrections, citing the ongoing Arthur litigation, denied the requests.