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Alabama allows death row inmate to hold hands with pastor during lethal injection

The lethal injection chamber of the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

Alabama decided to allow death row inmate Will Smith to hold his pastor’s hand during his lethal injection scheduled for next month.

Smith was originally scheduled for execution in February 2021, but his execution was postponed due to litigation over whether his personal pastor is allowed to be present during the lethal injection.

Lawyers for Alabama wrote in June that inmates facing execution are allowed a spiritual adviser present with them during their execution, and that the adviser is allowed to touch them.

Smith’s pastor will be allowed to anoint Smith’s head with oil, pray over him, and hold Smith’s hand until the consciousness assessment begins. The pastor will be allowed to remain in the execution chamber until the curtains to the witness rooms are drawn. Detailed procedures for the spiritual adviser were agreed upon in a joint filing by the state of Alabama and Smith’s lawyers in June.

Smith was convicted of kidnapping and murdering 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson in Birmingham in 1991.

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