Alabama carries out 1st execution in more than two years

January 25, 2016 in News, The Buzz

Christopher Eugene Brooks Alabama Department of Corrections

Christopher Eugene Brooks
Alabama Department of Corrections

ATMORE, Alabama (AP) — A man convicted of the 1992 rape and beating death of a woman received a lethal injection Thursday evening in Alabama’s first execution in more than two years.

Christopher Eugene Brooks, 43, was pronounced dead at 6:38 p.m. at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, authorities said. The procedure began several minutes after 6 p.m., shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court had denied a last-minute defense request for a stay.

Brooks was convicted of the capital murder of 23-year-old Jo Deann Campbell, a woman authorities say he first met when they worked at a camp in upstate New York.

Prior to a three-drug combination being administered, Brooks had some final words, saying: “I hope this brings closure to everybody.” He thanked his loved ones repeatedly, adding “love you all. … I will take you with you in my heart … I love y’all. Bye. I love y’all.”

A prison chaplain held Brooks’ hand and appeared to pray with him as the first drug, a sedative, was administered. Brooks’ eyes closed, his mouth gaped open and his breathed slowed. A prison captain pinched his upper left arm and pulled open his eyelid to check for consciousness before the final two drugs were administered.

Authorities said it was the first execution since Alabama announced in 2014 that it was changing two of the three drugs, including switching to the sedative midazolam to render an inmate unconscious.

A jury convicted Brooks in 1993 of capital murder for murder committed in the course of a robbery, burglary and rape.

According to the court record, the victim Campbell was seen speaking to Brooks at a restaurant where she worked on Dec. 30, 1992, and she later told a friend someone was spending the night in her living room, witnesses said. The next day, police found Campbell’s partially clothed body under the bed in her apartment in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Prosecutors said she was bludgeoned with an 8-pound dumbbell and sexually assaulted.

Brooks’ bloody fingerprint was on a doorknob in Campbell’s bedroom and a latent palm print on her ankle, according to court records. The documents say Brooks was found later with Campbell’s car keys and had cashed her paycheck.

At trial, defense lawyers argued another man who was at the apartment that night might have committed the killing. A prosecution witness said semen on the victim’s body was consistent with Brooks’ DNA.

Lawyers for the state have argued Alabama’s new drug combination is “virtually identical” to one Florida has used multiple times without incident. But attorneys for Brooks had argued that midazolam was used in problematic executions, including one in which an Oklahoma inmate took 43 minutes to die.

The U.S. Supreme Court — in a split decision in June — allowed Oklahoma to proceed using midazolam.

Six Alabama inmates argue in an ongoing lawsuit that it is an ineffective anesthetic and that they would feel the effects of the subsequent injections of rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride to stop their lungs and hearts.

The U.S. Supreme Court, without explanation Thursday evening, said it had denied a request by Brooks’ attorney to halt the execution.

“Brooks raped and murdered Jo Deann Campbell on December 31, 1992 and her family has been waiting for justice for more than twenty-three years,” the state’s lawyers wrote recently.

Campbell’s sister, Corrine Campbell, told The Associated Press she, her sister and her mother headed to Atmore on Thursday. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were witnesses.

Corrine Campbell said her sister was very welcoming and trusting, but had no idea whom she had invited to stay at her place when Brooks showed up uninvited.

“She was young, energetic, bubbly, hard-working. The young lady had no enemies,” she said.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins, responding to a motion by lawyers for some Alabama death row inmates, ordered prison officials to retain execution medical records, including data generated by a heartbeat monitor. He didn’t say whether inmates’ lawyers, who are challenging the new execution method, would get to see them.

Alabama’s last execution was in 2013, with drug shortages and litigation preventing executions until now. Andrew Reid Lackey received a lethal injection July 25, 2013, for killing a man during a 2005 robbery.