Alabama: execution of Matthew Reeves temporarily stayed – to be appealed
A judge in the U.S. state of Alabama has halted the execution of Matthew Reeves scheduled for Jan. 27, 2022. On Jan. 7, Judge R. Austin Huffaker of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state from executing Reeves using any method other than nitrogen hypoxia.
Huffaker noted that Reeves is likely to succeed on his claim that the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when prison officials failed to offer him help in understanding a form they distributed requiring him to indicate a method of execution.
Reeves, who has an IQ between 60 and 70, did not fill out the form, prompting prosecutors to request his execution by lethal injection. The state has not scheduled executions for prisoners who have indicated nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution.
Reeves argued in district court that he was unable to read and understand the ballot form without assistance due to his general cognitive impairments and severely limited reading skills. Alabama has not yet established a protocol for executions under nitrogen hypoxia and does not expect to be ready to carry out such executions until April 2022.
Had Reeves been able to understand the form and choose nitrogen hypoxia, he could not be executed at this time. The decision is being appealed. Alabama is one of three states, along with Mississippi and Oklahoma, that have authorized executions using nitrogen gas. No executions by nitrogen hypoxia have been carried out in the United States.