Sister calls for investigation over longest lethal injection

Sister of Alabama death row inmate subjected to ‘three hours of pain’ in longest lethal injection process in US history calls for investigation

  • Sister of a death row inmate has called for an investigation into his execution 
  • Joe Nathan James Jr, subjected to longest lethal injection process in US history 
  • Execution scheduled to start at 6pm but he was not declared dead until 9.27pm 
  • Family of victim Faith Hall killed in 1994 also objected to James’ execution 

The sister of a death row inmate who was subjected to the longest lethal injection process in US history has called for an investigation into his execution.

Joe Nathan James Jr, 50, from Birmingham, Alabama, was executed on July 28 for the 1994 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Faith Hall, in a procedure that took over three hours.

The execution was scheduled to take place at 6pm, but the curtains did not open to media observers until 9pm, where they witnessed James unresponsive on the gurney. He was declared dead at 9.27pm.

Yvette Craig, James’ younger sister, called her brother’s execution a ‘murder’ that took place against the wishes of Hall’s family, who had pleaded with Attorney General Steve Marshall and Governor Kay Ivey to stay his execution.

In a written statement to the Montgomery Advertiser, James’ sister, Yvette Craig demanded an investigation into the botched execution and implied that Alabama officials were trying to make an example of her brother during an election year.

No explanation for the three hour delay in the execution was initially given by Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm, but it was later said to be because prison officials struggled to place an IV on him. 

Yvette Craig, the sister of Joe Nathan James Jr. (pictured), 50, who was subjected to the longest lethal injection process in US history, has called for an investigation into his execution. James received a lethal injection at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore that took over three hours

The execution was scheduled to take place at 6pm, but the curtains did not open to media observers until 9pm, where they witnessed James unresponsive on the gurney. He was declared dead at 9.27pm. Pictured: Alabama’s lethal injection chamber at Holman Correctional Facility

‘Only the ADOC employees know what occurred during those three hours’ in which the execution was delayed, she wrote. 

Craig said that ADOC Commissioner John Hamm should have let the execution warrant expire after the delay and reconsider the method of execution ‘at the very least’.

‘I would like to start by saying that there is no excuse for what my brother did,’ Craig wrote. ‘He took the life of a mother, and he deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison to think about what he did and why it was the wrong decision to make.’ 

The media’s observations of James’ condition when the curtain was opened ‘warrants an investigation of Commissioner John Hamm, Governor Kay Ivey, and Attorney General Steve Marshall’s actions leading up to the execution of my brother,’ she said.

Evaluation of the autopsy reveals that officials unsuccessfully tried for more than three hours to insert an IV line. The execution team then attempted a cut-down procedure, according to non-profit Reprieve US, which would have caused James to struggle and leave him with injuries on his hands and wrists. 

The cut in his arm, likely to find a vein for the lethal injection protocol to be delivered through, would have been ‘extremely painful’.

‘Slicing deep into the skin with a sharp surgical blade in an awake person without local anesthesia would be extremely painful,’ Joel Zivot, an associate professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University told The Atlantic. Zivot helped conduct the private autopsy and is an opponent of lethal-injection. 

James was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1994 shooting death of Faith Hall (pictured) in Birmingham

‘In a medical setting, ultrasound has virtually eliminated the need for a cutdown, and the fact that a cutdown was utilized here is further evidence that the IV team was unqualified for the task in a most dramatic way.’

James’ eyes were closed for the entirety of the procedure and he did not respond to the warden when asked if he had any last words, according to a report by

Witnesses saw his arm move with some slight movement at 9.05 pm followed by some indications of breathing one minute later.

His breathing lasted until 9.10 pm when a correctional officer performed a consciousness check, to which James only responded to an arm pinch by moving his head side-to-side.

James’ breathing appeared to stop at 9.12 pm, with curtains to the room being closed to witnesses at 9.18 pm. 

His time of death was recorded nine minutes later at 9.27 pm.

ADOC officials later said James was not sedated but that they could not say whether he was ‘fully conscious’ before the lethal drugs began to flow. 

The victim’s daughter, Terrlyn (pictured left) and Hall’s brother Obito (pictured right) tried to prevent James from execution and instead wanted him to serve a life sentence behind bars but their request was denied by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey 

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm came under renewed fire 

‘James’ eyes were not open at the beginning of the execution, and he appeared motionless, save for his breathing,’ Lee Hedgepeth, a media witness from Birmingham television station CBS42 wrote. 

‘Today is a tragic day for our family,’ Hall’s family, who had petitioned against the execution of her killer, told WIAT in a statement at the time. 

‘We hoped the state wouldn’t take a life simply because a life was taken and we have forgiven Mr Joe Nathan James Jr … We pray that God allows us to find healing after today and that one day our criminal justice system will listen to the cries of families like ours even if it goes against what the state wishes.’ 

Alabama state officials did not answer questions in reference to the execution’s three-hour delay and said ‘there was nothing out of the ordinary.’

‘I can’t over emphasize this process,’ said Hamm in a statement.

 ‘We’re carrying out the ultimate punishment … and we have protocols and we are very deliberate in our process and making sure everything goes according to plan.

‘So, if that takes a few minutes or a few hours, that’s what we do.’

Hamm did not clarify what part of the procedure resulted in the delay and added that the ADOC ‘took [their] deliberate time.’

In a statement released by ADOC the day following James’ execution, ‘if the veins are such that intravenous access cannot be provided, the team will perform a central line procedure.

‘Fortunately, this was not necessary and with adequate time, intravenous access was established.’

The Montgomery Advertiser reported that The Alabama Department of Corrections rejected their request for documents about James’ execution, saying it considers documents about executions to be exempt from public disclosure.

Faith Hall (pictured) seen in this undated photo, was just 26 years old at the time of her murder

Rosie Shingles of ADOC’s Research and Planning Division wrote that the Advertiser was seeking ‘protected and confidential, security sensitive information that does not reasonably need to be viewed by the public and would be detrimental to the public’s best interest.’ 

The report by Reprieve US claim that, because of the long process to establish an IV line, the execution team would have sedated James before media arrived.

This would cause James to be visibly unconscious at 9 pm.

‘First, [it was] a torturous procedure behind closed doors, then a theatrical performance for witnesses,’ Foa said. 

Hall’s two daughters, Toni Hall Melton, who was three, and Terryln Hall, who was six when their mother was killed, and her younger brother, Helvetius Hall, who was 24 at the time of the murder, had said publicly that they would rather James serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In response to Hall’s family protesting James’ execution, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she would not intervene, and said in a statement that ‘we must always fulfill our responsibility to the law, to public safety and to justice.

‘Tonight, a fair and lawful sentence was carried out, and an unmistakable message was send that Alabama stands with victims of domestic violence.’

James acted as his own attorney in his bid to stop his execution, mailing handwritten lawsuits and appeal notices to the courts from death row.

A lawyer filed the latest appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court on his behalf the day before his execution, which was rejected about 30 minutes before it began.     

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