States Carry Out Year's First 2 Executions

Divided SCOTUS cleared way for Alabama execution of Matthew Reeves
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 28, 2022 3:08 AM CST
Alabama Inmate Executed After SCOTUS Clears Way
This photo provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows death row inmate Matthew Reeves.   (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP)

Alabama executed an inmate by lethal injection for a 1996 murder on Thursday after a divided US Supreme Court sided with the state and rejected defense claims the man had an intellectual disability that cost him a chance to choose a less "torturous," yet untried, execution method. Matthew Reeves, 43, was put to death at Holman Prison after the court lifted a lower court order that had prevented corrections workers from executing the prisoner, the AP reports. He was pronounced dead at 9:24pm, state Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. Reeves was convicted of killing Willie Johnson Jr., a driver who gave him a ride in 1996. Evidence showed Reeves went to a party afterward and celebrated the killing.

Reeves claimed the state failed to help him understand a form that would have let him choose a new execution method involving nitrogen, but the state argued he wasn't so disabled that he couldn't understand the choice. Reeves was sentenced to die for the murder of Willie Johnson, who was killed by a shotgun blast to the neck during a robbery in Selma on Nov. 27, 1996, after picking up Reeves, then 18 years old, and others on the side of a rural highway. The court split 5-4 on allowing the execution to proceed. Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court's three liberals, including Justice Stephen Breyer, in saying she would have denied the state's request, CNN reports. The inmate had no last words.

Earlier Thursday, Oklahoma inmate Donald Grant became the first person to be executed in the US this year. The 46-year-old received a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and was declared dead at 10:16am, reports the AP. It was the third execution in Oklahoma since the state resumed lethal injections in October following a nearly seven-year hiatus. "Yo, God, I got this," Grant said while lying strapped to the gurney. "No medication. I didn't take nothing. Brooklyn for life." He was convicted of the brutal murders of Brenda McElyea and Felicia Suzette Smith during a hotel robbery in 2001. (At a hearing last month, the court heard that Oklahoma pays a doctor $15,000 to verify the death of an executed inmate.)

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