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Ala. Gov. Signs Execution Law Change

April 25, 2002

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Gov. Don Siegelman signed a law Thursday making lethal injection the primary method of execution in Alabama, leaving Nebraska as the only state exclusively using the electric chair.

Beginning July 1, condemned inmates in Alabama will die by injection unless they choose the electric chair.

Siegelman said the change was a precaution in case the Supreme Court rules the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment, which could otherwise have thrown the state’s death penalty law into limbo.

Prosecutors backed the change to make sure capital punishment remains legal in the state.

The Supreme Court earlier this month blocked the execution of Alabama death-row inmate Gary Leon Brown, convicted of stabbing a man to death in 1987. His appeal contended, in part, that the electric chair is cruel and unusual.

Only one execution is scheduled before the change. Lynda Lyon Block, who was convicted in the 1993 killing of a police officer, is scheduled to die May 10 and is not appealing her sentence.

Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said prison officials will have to find funding to pay for the new death chamber and new equipment, because the law passed by the Legislature did not include money to pay for the new form of execution.

Alabama’s electric chair was last used in June 2000.

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