Alabama has executed a man on death row for the murder of his former girlfriend in 1994 – ignoring pleas from the victim’s family to spare his life.
Joe Nathan James Jr was put to death by lethal injection at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore on Thursday night, two days after the United States Court of Appeals denied a final motion to stay his execution. His time of death was 9:27 p.m. local time.
In his final hours, he spoke to his attorneys by phone three times, but had no visitors and made no special requests, according to the state Corrections Department.
James has been on death row for nearly three decades after being sentenced to death for shooting Faith Hall Smith, a 26-year-old mother of two, in 1994.
Smith’s family released a statement after his execution, calling it a “tragic day” that made them “relive the hurt” they have suffered since his murder.
“Today is a tragic day for our family. We must relive the hurt this caused us many years ago,” the family said, according to WIAT.
“We hoped that the State would not take a life just because a life was taken and we have forgiven Mr. Joe Nathan James Jr… We pray that God will allow 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 wants.
“Our voices matter, as does the life of Mr. Joe Nathan James Jr.”
Several members of the victim’s family had spoken out in recent days to say they wanted James’ execution halted and his sentence reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Smith’s daughter, Terrlyn Hall, who was just six when her mother died, told ABC3340 this week that her mother was “loving” and “forgiving” and would not want her killer be put to death.
“I’m sure if she was here today, well if she was in this situation, she would want to forgive,” she said, adding that “it’s not going to bring her back.”
Smith’s brother Helvetius Hall said ending James’ life would not take away the pain the family has suffered saying “we have learned to deal with it”.
“He did a horrible thing. He’s suffered enough and I don’t think taking his life is going to make our life any better,” he said.
Mr Hall believes the state has never listened to what the family wants.
Last week, Alabama State Representative Juandalynn Givan sent a letter on behalf of the family to Gov. Kay Ivey asking him to grant James a stay of execution.
But the governor ignored this request and the execution took place a week later.
In a statement released Thursday evening after James’ execution, the governor said “a just and lawful sentence has been executed” against a man who subjected his victim to “repeated harassment, serious threats and, ultimately, cold-blooded murder”.
“Tonight, a just and legal sentence was served, and an unequivocal message was sent that Alabama stands with victims of domestic violence,” she said.
State Attorney General Steve Marshall also welcomed the news in a press release, writing, “Justice has been served.”
James and Smith had dated since the early 1990s and when they broke up he stalked and harassed her, showed up at her house uninvited and threatened to kill her and her ex. husband, according to legal documents.
Then, on the evening of August 15, 1994, he followed his car to a friend’s house where he shot him three times.
In the aftermath, James fled but was arrested in California and sent back to Alabama.
Two years after his brutal murder, James was convicted of capital murder.
The Independent Gt