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Advocates call Alabama execution an ‘avoidable disaster’

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Ronald Bert Smith (Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections)

ATMORE, Alabama — Defenders of a condemned inmate in Alabama are calling his execution an “avoidable disaster.” For 13 minutes after he was sedated to avoid an unconstitutionally painful death, Ronald Bert Smith Jr. was seen coughing, gasping and moving.

Smith’s legal team said these movements Thursday night show “he was not anesthetized at any point during the agonizingly long procedure.”

Alabama’s Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn disputes that Smith was in pain after being injected with midazolam, a sedative some states are using now that pharmaceutical companies are refusing to make other drugs available for executions.

Smith was sentenced to die for killing convenience store clerk Casey Wilson in 1994, a crime prosecutors described as an execution-style murder.

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