Federal judge in Alabama dismisses Joe Nathan James Jr.’s request for stay of execution

James, 49, is set to be die by lethal injection on July 28 at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore

By Ivana Hrynkiw

ATMORE, Ala. - A federal judge has denied an Alabama Death Row inmate’s request for a stay of execution.

U.S. Southern District Judge Terry F. Moorer issued an order on Monday dismissing Joe Nathan James Jr.’s motion for a stay, writing James “has not carried his burden of persuasion.”

James, 49, is set to be die by lethal injection on July 28 at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. The execution date comes more than 24 years after he was first sentenced for the shooting death of Faith Hall in Birmingham. Hall was James’ former girlfriend and was killed Aug. 15, 1994.

The newly dismissed case is one of several lawsuits James recently filed. James argued in the Southern District case that the state violated his rights “because they started the execution process even though (James) has several appeals pending and no Certificate of Judgment has issued in (James’) most recent cases.”

In this case, James also argued he should have the change his method of execution. He says he made the choice to die by nitrogen hypoxia on July 17, 2022 and he wants the prison to honor that choice.

There is not yet a state approved process for death by nitrogen hypoxia, and there have been no executions using the method in the United States. In 2018, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill giving inmates the option to choose execution by nitrogen hypoxia. According to the state, inmates waiting to be executed were allowed to opt in the nitrogen method if they wished, but had to do so within a 30-day period in June 2018. Of the 177 inmates on Alabama’s Death Row, more than 50 inmates at the time chose to die by the new method.

In regards to the nitrogen hypoxia claim, Moorer said in his order that James did not his election within the approved timeframe. “Though he may have still been pursing post-conviction appeals, it does not change the fact that his election was due within that time period.”

Court records show that in each case James has filed recently, he makes slightly different allegations in each: but, several claims overlap. In this lawsuit, James “seems to be claiming that because he continues to file lawsuits in both state and federal court that the State is not permitted by law to execute him until all legal avenues have been exhausted and certificates of judgment have issued in each,” Moorer writes.

The judge continues in the order that there is no legal support for that theory. “Moreover, the idea is simply not logical because then any death-row inmate could prevent his execution by merely filings lawsuit after lawsuit – creating a never ending loop of litigation in order to simply stall the execution date indefinitely.”

“In short, the mere filing of a lawsuit does not create an automatic ‘pause’ on the ability of the state to execute an inmate subject to a sentence of death.”

Hall’s family is asking Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to commute James’ death sentence to one of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Her two daughters and brother said killing James will not be justice for their mother.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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