Alabama to appeal judge’s order blocking Matthew Reeves’ execution on January 27
MONTGOMERY, Alabama (WIAT) – The state of Alabama will appeal a federal judge’s order blocking the execution of Matthew Reeves later this month.
In a court document filed Monday, attorneys for the state called the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge R. Austin Huffaker “clearly wrong” and said the court “had abused its discretion” in ruling that death row inmate Matthew Reeves had a disability and the need for housing under the law The Americans with Disabilities Act was open and obvious.
If the state’s appeal is successful, Reeves’ execution could move forward on January 27.
In his 37-page decision released Friday, Huffaker granted Reeves’ request, preventing his execution “by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia.” Huffaker, a person named by Trump, wrote that prison officials were “aware that Reeves had IQ scores in the 60s or 70s, below average intellectual functioning, and was found to be functionally illiterate at barely two months before he handed him the election form and expected him to understand it and use it without accommodation. “
While Huffaker’s decision would technically allow Reeves to be executed by nitrogen suffocation, state officials said as late as October that there was not yet a working protocol for performing the held in this way. An execution using the method, which involves replacing the oxygen required for respiration with nitrogen gas, has never been carried out in the United States. Oklahoma and Mississippi are the only other states to allow this practice.
Reeves’ lawsuit was filed after death row inmates were given a form allowing them to opt for nitrogen suffocation death when the Alabama legislature first approved the method of execution in 2018. In the lawsuit, Reeves argued that his intellectual disability prevented him from understanding this form, adding that the prison authorities should have provided an accommodation that would have helped him understand his options, as required by the ADA.
Reeves ‘case is now before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, where oral argument will take place on January 21, just six days before Reeves’ scheduled execution date.
Reeves was convicted of the 1996 murder of Willie Johnson in Dallas County. A jury voted 10-2 to sentence him to death. He has now been in prison for over 23 years.