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Joe Nathan James: Alabama executed a death row inmate despite pleas from victim’s family not to

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“Justice is served. Joe James was put to death for the heinous act he committed nearly three decades ago: the cold-blooded murder of an innocent young mother, Faith Hall,” Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a press release on Thursday.

James’ time of death was 9:27 p.m. local time Thursday, and he was executed by lethal injection, according to a press release from the state’s Corrections Department.

On Thursday, James made no special requests, had no visitors and had three phone calls with attorneys, the state corrections department added.

James was convicted and sentenced to death for fatally shooting 26-year-old Smith, with whom he was dating in the early 1990s.

Earlier this week, Smith’s daughter, Terrlyn Hall, told CNN affiliate WBMA that the family hoped James would instead be sentenced to life without parole.

“She was a loving, forgiving person,” Hall said of her mother. “I’m pretty sure if she was here today, or if she was in this situation, she’d be willing to forgive.”

“We don’t think (execution) is necessary because it won’t bring her back,” she added.

Helvetius Hall, Smith’s brother, also insisted on imprisonment instead of death.

“He did something terrible,” he told the local news station. “He’s suffered enough and I don’t think taking his life will make our lives better.”

The execution came after more than 25 years of legal appeals in James’ case.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement that Hall was “a victim of repeated harassment, serious threats and ultimately cold-blooded murder” by James.

“Tonight a fair and legal verdict was handed down and an unmistakable message was sent that Alabama supports victims of domestic violence,” Ivey said. CNN has contacted the governor for further comment.

James and Smith had a “volatile” relationship, according to a US appeals court summarizing the case. After they broke up, he stalked and harassed her, went to her house uninvited and threatened to kill her and her ex-husband, the file says. In 1994, he followed her to a friend’s house and then shot her three times, the report said.

A Jefferson County jury found him guilty of Smith’s murder and recommended the death penalty in 1996, but the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction based on misappropriation of hearsay rumors, the appeals court said.

Before the retrial, James’ legal team arranged a plea deal with prosecutors in which he would face life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea, but James rejected that plan, the filing said.

5-4 Supreme Court clears way for execution in Alabama

“James explained that he was pretty good on death row – he had his own room, his own television that he could control to watch whatever he wanted, and lots of reading material,” the submission says. “He didn’t have to worry about being attacked by other inmates because he was always one-on-one with the guards.”

At the retrial, a jury again convicted James of murder and sentenced him to death in 1999, and the appeals courts upheld the decision. In 2020, the US Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and dismissed James’ claim of ineffective counsel.

A request to postpone his execution was rejected Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

The state of Alabama last executed a man in January after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn a lower court’s ruling blocking the execution. Matthew Reeves, who was convicted of the theft and murder of Willie Johnson in 1996, was executed less than two hours later.
Alabama currently has 166 people on death row. The next scheduled state execution is for Alan Eugene Miller on Sept. 22, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

CNN’s Tina Burnside and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

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