Barber’s execution was Alabama’s first since a botched execution and two failed attempts last year prompted an internal review
By Elizabeth Pritchett
Alabama executed James Barber Friday morning for the brutal beating death of an elderly woman 22 years ago, marking the state’s first lethal injection death following a monthslong halt to review procedures.
Barber, 64, was pronounced dead at 1:56 a.m. at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the May 2001 murder of 75-year-old Dorothy Epps after he confessed to killing her with a claw hammer at her home in the town of Harvest and fleeing with her purse.
His last meal consisted of “loaded” hash browns, a western omelet, spicy sausage and toast, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections.
State Attorney General Steve Marshall said Barber was a handyman who knew Epps through repair work and a previous relationship with her daughter.
Barber was arrested days after the murder and confessed his crimes to police in great detail. He admitted that “the crime was senseless and stupid” and that he deserved “to be charged and put to death” for committing it,” according to the attorney general’s office.
The execution took place despite Barber’s attorneys’ request for a stay due to Alabama’s failure “to carry out a lethal injection execution in a constitutional manner.” The SCOTUS denied the stay near midnight on Thursday, which gave the state till 6 a.m. to start the execution.
“Justice has been served. This morning, James Barber was put to death for the terrible crime he committed over two decades ago: the especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel murder of Dorothy Epps,” Marshall said in a statement Friday morning.
He continued: “I ask the people of Alabama to join me in praying for the victim’s family and friends, that they might now be able to find some sense of peace and closure.”
Barber’s death marked the first execution carried out in Alabama since last fall after Gov. Kay Ivey ordered an internal review of lethal injection procedures following a string of issues, resulting in a botched execution and two failed execution attempts between last July and November.
Ivey announced in February that the state was cleared to resume executions. The review resulted in the prison system growing its pool of medical professionals, ordering new equipment and conducting additional rehearsals, Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said.
In their request for a stay of execution, Barber’s attorneys argued that his execution “will likely be botched in the same manner as the prior three.”
AG Marshall’s office urged the Supreme Court to let the execution proceed, adding that the victim’s family has waited long enough “to see justice done.”
He stated that the previous executions were called off because of a “confluence of events—including health issues specific to the individual inmates and last-minute litigation brought by the inmates that dramatically shortened the window for ADOC officials to conduct the executions.”
Leading up to his execution, Barber had 22 visitors and two phone calls, according to the Department of Corrections.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.