Alabama executes convicted murderer James Barber in first lethal injection since review after IV problems

Atmore, Alabama — Alabama executed a man on Friday for the 2001 beating death of a woman as the state resumed lethal injections following a pause to review procedures. James Barber, 64, was pronounced dead at 1:56 a.m. after receiving a lethal injection at a south Alabama prison.

Barber was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2001 beating death of 75-year-old Dorothy Epps. Prosecutors said Barber, a handyman, confessed to killing Epps with a claw hammer and fleeing with her purse. Jurors voted 11-1 to recommend a death sentence, which a judge imposed.

Alabama death row inmate James Barber was executed by lethal injection on July 21, 2023 for the 2001 murder of Dorothy Epps.


It was the first execution carried out in Alabama this year after the state halted executions last fall. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced a pause on executions in November to conduct an internal review of procedures.

The move came after the state halted two lethal injections because of difficulties inserting IVs into the condemned men’s veins. Advocacy groups claimed a third execution, carried out after a delay because of IV problems, was botched, a claim the state has disputed.

Barber’s attorneys unsuccessfully asked the courts to block the execution, saying the state has a pattern of failing “to carry out a lethal injection execution in a constitutional manner.”

The state asked the courts to let the execution proceed.

“Mrs. Epps and her family have waited for justice for twenty-two years,” the Alabama attorney general’s office wrote in a court filing.

Attorneys for inmate Alan Miller said prison staff poked him with needles for over an hour as they unsuccessfully tried to connect an IV line to him and at one point left him hanging vertically on a gurney during his aborted execution in September. State officials called off the November execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith after they were unsuccessful in connecting the second of two required lines.

Kenneth Eugene Smith

Alabama Department of Corrections

Ivey announced in February that the state was resuming executions. Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said prison system had added to its pool of medical professionals, ordered new equipment and conducted additional rehearsals.

Attorneys for Barber had argued that his execution “will likely be botched in the same manner as the prior three.”

The Supreme Court denied Barber’s request for a stay without comment. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the decision in a writing joined by Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“The Eighth Amendment demands more than the State’s word that this time will be different. The Court should not allow Alabama to test the efficacy of its internal review by using Barber as its ‘guinea pig,'” Sotomayor wrote.

State officials wrote that the previous executions were called off because of a “confluence of events-including health issues specific to the individual inmates and last-minute litigation brought by the inmates that dramatically shortened the window for ADOC officials to conduct the executions.”

In the hours leading up to the scheduled execution, Barber had 22 visitors and two phone calls, a prison spokesperson said. Barber ate a final meal of loaded hashbrowns, western omelet, spicy sausage and toast.

One of the changes Alabama made following the internal review was to give the state more time to carry out executions. The Alabama Supreme Court did away with its customary midnight deadline to get an execution underway in order to give the state more time to establish an IV line and battle last-minute legal appeals.

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