Alabama Executed a Death Row Inmate Despite Pleas From the Victim’s Family Not to

State’s Attorney confirmed that Alabama convict Joe Nathan James Jr. was put to death Thursday night for the 1994 murder of Faith Hall Smith, despite the victim’s family’s requests to spare his life.

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“Justice has been served. Joe James was put to death for the heinous act he committed nearly three decades ago: the cold-blooded murder of an innocent young mother, Faith Hall,” Attorney General Steve Marshall said Thursday in a news release.

Alabama Executed a Death Row Inmate

James was executed by lethal injection on Thursday at 9:27 p.m. local time,  as per a statement from the state’s prisons department.

The state correctional administration also noted that James did not make any unusual requests, had any visitors, and had three phone calls with his counsel on Thursday.

James was found guilty of murdering Smith, a 26-year-old woman he had dated in the early 1990s, and given a death sentence.

“She was a loving, forgiving person,” Hall said of her mother. “I’m quite sure if she was here today, or if she were in this situation, she would want to forgive.”

“We don’t think (execution) is called for because it won’t bring her back,” she added.

“He did a horrible thing,” he told the local news outlet. “He has suffered enough, and I don’t think taking his life will improve our life.”

Alabama Executed Death Row Inmate Despite Pleas Victim Family
Alabama Executed Death Row Inmate Despite Pleas Victim Family

In James’ case, the execution occurred after more than 25 years of appeals. Hall was “the victim of repetitive harassment, serious threats, and ultimately, cold-blooded murder” by James, according to a statement released by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. Smith’s brother Helvetius Hall likewise advocated for a sentence of imprisonment rather than the death penalty.

Tonight, a fair and lawful sentence was carried out, and an unmistakable message was sent that Alabama stands with victims of domestic violence,” Ivey said.

An appeals court summary described the connection between James and Smith as “volatile.” According to the petition, he continued to harass and follow her after their breakup, including showing up at her house unannounced and making death threats against both her and her ex-husband. According to the paperwork, he fatally shot her three times in 1994 after following her to a friend’s house.

In 1996, a jury in Jefferson County convicted him guilty of murdering Smith and recommended the capital penalty, but the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction due to the improper admission of hearsay evidence.

The complaint alleges that before the retrial, James’ attorneys negotiated a plea arrangement with prosecutors in which he would receive life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. James rejected this offer.

“James explained that he had it pretty good on death row — he had his own room, his own television that he could control to watch what he wanted, and plenty of reading material,” the filing says. “He did not have to worry about being attacked by other prisoners because he was always one-on-one with the guards.”

The appellate courts have upheld the 1999 jury verdict that found James guilty of capital murder and condemned him to death. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld James’ conviction and denied his claim of poor counsel in 2020.

The US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied a stay of execution on Tuesday.

After 5-4, Supreme Court decided to reverse a lower court ruling blocking an execution, and the state of Alabama carried out its most recent execution in January. Less than two hours later, Matthew Reeves was put to death for his role in the robbery and murder of Willie Johnson in 1996.

There are presently 166 inmates awaiting execution in Alabama. According to the Death Penalty Data Collection Project, on September 22, 2018, Alan Eugene Miller will be the next inmate to be executed in the state of Texas.

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