Alabama death row inmate is executed nearly 30 years after murder conviction

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According to the attorney general’s office, Smith was executed by legal injection at 9:47 p.m. local time in Atmore, Alabama.

Smith was convicted of robbing 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson, putting her in the trunk of his own stolen car, and fatally shooting her in 1991. Investigators say Smith then set the car on fire with Johnson’s body.
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“The family of Sharma Johnson has had to wait 29 years, 11 months and 25 days for the conviction of Sharma’s killer,” state Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. “Finally, the brutal and unusual punishment inflicted on him – decades of justice denial – has come to an end.”

In February, the Supreme Court stayed his execution on the grounds that Smith wanted his spiritual advisor to be present in the execution room. The state of Alabama asked the judges to allow executions without their advisor in the chamber.

On October 17, a preliminary injunction to halt his execution was denied in federal court regarding his choice of execution method.


A state law came into force in 2018 that allowed death row prisoners to elect death by nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection, the default method of execution. Court records show that Smith received the form to opt-in, but did not make the election during the 30-day opt-in period.

Because Smith suffered from “significant cognitive deficiencies”, his motion for the preliminary injunction alleged that he was unable to “enjoy the benefits of the law and election form” without aid in understanding the form and its content. According to the verdict, Smith’s lawyers said he was unable to fill out the form because his IQ is between 64 and 72.

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Chief U.S. District Judge Emily Marks ruled, “Since Smith has not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his ADA (Disability Act) claim, and because equity weighs against him, Smith has not established his own The burden has not met the right of preliminary injunction.”

Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement after the execution, “The evidence in this case was overwhelming, and justice has been rightly delivered. Fulfilling Mr. Smith’s sentence sends the message that the state of Alabama will not tolerate these murderous acts.” I pray that Ms Johnson’s loved ones may be closer to finding peace.”

Granthshala’s Dave Alsup contributed to this report.


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