New execution bill pases Alabama House

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 16, 2000

Staff Writer

The Alabama House of Representatives has voted in favor of giving death row inmates an option of how they will die.

On Thursday, the House voted 71-11 in favor of a bill sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bill Fuller, D-LaFayette.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Fuller said the bill is intended to avoid delays from successful appeals claiming the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment.

If the Alabama Senate follows suit and Gov. Don Siegelman signs it into law, more than 185 death row inmates will have two options of how to die.

The bill will give inmates two days to file a written request for electrocution.

Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, was one of those who voted against the bill, saying murder victims did not have any choice about how they were killed. That sentiment was echoed by other legislators.

He said he would prefer passing a bill that would make the change to lethal injection only if federal courts stop Alabama from using the electric chair.

That was the original plan of Attorney General Bill Pryor and Siegelman, who wanted to legalize lethal injections in Alabama, but only as a precaution in the event federal courts declare use of the electric chair is unconstitutional.

Since becoming Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor has successfully defended the use of the electric chair in death penalty appeals.

"I don’t believe electrocution is cruel or unusual," Pryor said earlier this year. "I don’t believe it is inferior to lethal injection, based on scientific evidence and evidence we have presented in cases."

Of the 38 states which impose a death penalty, only Alabama, Georgia and Nebraska still use the electric chair as it’s only form of execution.

Like Alabama, Georgia and Nebraska lawmakers are looking at the issue.

It wasn’t that long ago that Florida changed its death penalty from electrocution to lethal injection while waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether or not the electric chair was unconstitutional. That change was the result of a string of problems involving the electric chair that Florida experienced.

Establishing a lethal injection room will cost the state between $250,000 and $300,000.