USA: Two executions in one day in Oklahoma and Alabama – Jemaine Cannon and James Barber

Jemaine Cannon – Oklahoma

On Thursday morning, 51-year-old Jemaine Cannon was executed by lethal injection in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. He was sentenced to death for stabbing a 20-year-old Tulsa woman, mother of two, to death with a butcher knife in 1995 after escaping from a prison work center.

Cannon had been serving a 15-year sentence for the violent assault of another woman who suffered permanent injuries after Cannon allegedly raped and beat her. He had been living with his 1995 victim after escaping from custody.

A federal appeals court late Wednesday denied Cannon’s last-minute request for a stay of execution, in which Cannon claimed, among other things, that he was Native American and not subject to Oklahoma jurisdiction.

His attorney, Mark Henricksen, said Cannon’s trial and appellate attorneys were ineffective for failing to present evidence supporting the claim that Cannon acted in self-defense and never planned or intended his victim’s death. His trial attorneys presented no witnesses or exhibits and withdrew after the prosecution presented its case, Henricksen said.

“Mr. Cannon has endured fifty years of abuse and neglect by those charged with his care,” the attorney said. “He sits in his cell as a model prisoner. He is nearly deaf, blind and on the verge of dying of natural causes. The decision to carry out this execution is obscene.”

But prosecutors from the attorney general’s office and the victim’s adult daughters have urged the state to execute Cannon. The eldest daughter claimed before the parole board last month that Cannon had never shown remorse for his actions in 28 years and urged the board to reject the pardon, which it did by a 3-2 vote.

James Barber – Alabama

After a delay of about eight hours due to final pending filings with the U.S. Supreme Court, 64-year-old James Barber was executed by lethal injection early Friday morning in the U.S. state of Alabama. He had been found guilty of murdering a 75-year-old woman in 2001 while addicted to various substances.

The victim’s granddaughter had reported through the media how she forgave Barber and built a friendship with him.

Before he was killed in the death chamber at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Barber said in regard to the victim’s family, “I want to tell the family that I love them. I’m sorry for what happened. There are no words to describe how I feel.” He also said he wanted to tell Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey “and the people in this room that I forgive you for what you are about to do.”

Last year, Alabama botched three executions by lethal injection. The first death row inmate, Joe Nathan James Jr. took more than three hours to die. Two other executions were canceled. After an internal review, the state said this year it was ready to resume executions.

Barber had tried to avoid his execution by lethal injection by opting for death by nitrogen hypoxia, a state killing method that Alabama has said it wants to use but is not yet ready to do so.

Court records indicate that after reviewing Alabama’s use of lethal injection, the only changes made were to the staffing in the death chamber and the amount of time available to kill an inmate.