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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Supreme Court Declines to Stop Ala. Execution

(CN) - Christopher Brooks, convicted of the 1992 rape, murder and robbery of 23-year-old Homewood, Ala., woman, was put to death Thursday night after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant him a reprieve.

Brooks met his victim, Jo Deann Campbell, when both worked as camp counselors in upstate New York. Her partially clothed and battered body was found in her apartment on Dec. 31, 1992.

Investigators said Brooks evidently stayed in the Campbell's apartment the night before her board was found, and that he was identified by a bloody fingerprint he'd left behind.

At the time of his arrest, Brooks had Campbell's car keys and credit cards. He was convicted after a jury trial in 1993, and his conviction was later upheld by the state's appellate courts. Twenty-three years of appeals followed.

Brooks was declared dead shortly before 7 p.m., after being administered a three-drug lethal injection.

After the execution Alabama Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the execution "went exactly as planned."

Alabama last executed an inmate on July 25, 2013. It curtailed the practice after encountering a shortage of sodium thiopental, the sedative used to render the condemned inmate unconscious before the injection of the fatal chemicals.

The state switched to Pentobarbital, but that drug also proved to be scarce, causing it to turn to another sedative, midazolam hydrochloride.

Florida has used midazolam in its executions since 2013, without incident.

But the drug has also been used less successful in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma, where inmates took an extended period to die, and in at least two case, appeared to struggle and choke as they did so.

Despite these mishaps, the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently upheld the use of midazolam in executions.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said three Oklahoma inmates who had challenged its use failed to prove it violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

Five death row inmates in Alabama continue to challenge the use of midazolam the basis of the Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment, and a district court allowed Brooks to join their lawsuit, but did not grant him a stay of his execution.

The 11th Circuit on Tuesday refused to intervene, upholding the district judge's ruling that Brooks had not offered an alternative means of execution available to the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Brooks' requests for a stay of execution Thursday evening, with Justice Clarence Thomas declining to explain the rationale for the decision.

But Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader , in joining the majority, said in an concurring opinion they believed procedural obstacles, "would have prevented us from granting relief."

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a brief dissent, saying the methods by which Brooks was sentenced resembled Florida's capital sentences, which the high court voted to strike down earlier this month in Hurst v. Florida.

"The unfairness inherent in treating this case differently from others which used similarly unconstitutional procedures only underscores the need to reconsider the validity of capital punishment under the Eighth Amendment," Breyer wrote.

There are currently 186 inmates on Alabama's death row.

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