The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to postpone the execution of Joe Nathan James, who was scheduled to die in an Alabama prison at 7 p.m. EDT. James was sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of Faith Hall, his former girlfriend. Hall’s family had urged Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to convert James’ death sentence to a sentence of life in prison, but Ivey declined to do so.
James, acting as his own lawyer, came to the Supreme Court on Wednesday and asked the justices to put his execution on hold so that he could pursue a challenge he recently filed in Alabama state court. James also sought to be executed by nitrogen gas rather than lethal injection. The state maintained that in 2018 James missed his chance to make that choice, but James contended that he was not given an adequate opportunity to do so.
James, a practicing Muslim, also suggested that executing him over the objection of Hall’s family would be inconsistent with both the Bible and the Qur’an, which emphasize forgiveness.
Alabama told the justices that they should allow the execution to go forward as scheduled. James’ contention that he should not be executed while his state-court appeal was still pending was “untenable,” the state wrote, because it would allow him and other inmates to “infinitely delay their executions simply by” filing new lawsuits.
The court also should not intervene in the dispute over the method of execution, the state said. James, the state emphasized, received proper notice of his option to choose nitrogen gas; he “simply chose not to” make that election.
The wishes of Hall’s family, the state insisted, are “worthy of consideration and respect,” but they are not “grounds for review or a stay by” the Supreme Court. And in any event, the state noted, the family had the opportunity to weigh in, when they submitted a clemency petition to Ivey.
In a brief order issued less than 40 minutes before the execution was scheduled to take place, the Supreme Court turned down James’ request without explanation. There were no dissents recorded from the order.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.