State of Alabama Unsuccessful in Efforts to Execute Terminally Ill Man


The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the October 25, 2007, execution of Danny Siebert just hours before it was scheduled to take place. The State of Alabama had attempted to execute Mr. Siebert, who is suffering from advanced terminal cancer, even though it conceded that he will die within months. Newspapers across Alabama have criticized the State for seeking to execute Mr. Siebert.

In the weeks leading up to his execution, Mr. Siebert suffered from chronic nausea, required a feeding tube, and was provided palliative treatment for tumor-related pain. Prior to being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Mr. Siebert filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the State’s lethal injection protocol. The legitimacy of his lawsuit was confirmed on September 25, 2007, when the United States Supreme Court in Baze v. Rees announced that it had decided to review the constitutionality of the lethal injection protocol in Kentucky, which is basically the same protocol used in Alabama and in most other death penalty states.

State and federal courts across the country, including the Supreme Court itself, had granted every single request for a stay of execution based on Baze. Executions are now on hold in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas. Had the State of Alabama succeeded in executing Mr. Siebert, he would have been the only inmate in the country to file a lethal injection challenge and be denied a stay.

Less than a month ago, Alabama Governor Bob Riley was so concerned about this state’s lethal injection protocol that he issued a 45-day reprieve to death row inmate Tommy Arthur. Only 28 days had passed, and changes to Alabama’s protocol had not been publicized or reviewed, but Governor Riley refused to grant a reprieve to Mr. Siebert, stating publicly that he wanted to make sure that the State could execute him before he died from cancer.

The Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court waited until the day before Mr. Siebert’s execution date to issue a one-line denial of his request for a stay of execution. United States District Court Judge Mark Fuller denied a stay even though he had ruled that Mr. Siebert’s challenge to the State’s lethal injection protocol as it related to his medical condition was timely and should be considered. On appeal of Judge Fuller’s ruling, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of execution.

UPDATE: Danny Siebert died on April 22, 2008, from advanced terminal cancer.