Media Contact

ACLU of Alabama, [email protected]


July 21, 2023

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Overnight, the State of Alabama executed James Barber. Below is a statement from the ACLU of Alabama on Mr. Barber’s execution: 

Early this morning, the State of Alabama executed James Barber. Mr. Barber was sentenced to death by a non-unanimous jury—a practice only allowed in Alabama and Florida. Every other state requires a unanimous jury before issuing a death sentence, and that fact alone should be reason to question the purpose and reliability of Mr. Barber’s death sentence. 

Mr. Barber's state-sponsored murder came after three consecutive botched execution attempts and a rushed internal investigation to figure out what went wrong. Despite experts and community leaders repeatedly voicing safety concerns, Governor Ivey, Attorney General Marshall, and the Alabama Department of Corrections rushed to put Mr. Barber to death without taking adequate measures to prevent torture. As U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jill Pryor wrote, Mr. Barber served as the State’s “guinea pig,” for an execution review process conducted “entirely outside the scope of any court’s or the public’s scrutiny, and without saying what went wrong or what it fixed as a result.” 

Shortly before midnight, Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a dissent from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 denial of Mr. Barber’s motion to stay his execution. Justice Sotomayor expressed concern with allowing “Alabama to experiment again with a human life.” However, that experimentation went forward with the IV team requiring “three sticks” to access Mr. Barber’s veins and witnesses reporting that Mr. Barber showed signs of discomfort and distress before he was pronounced dead at 1:56 am. Under Alabama’s previous rules for executions, Mr. Barber would have returned to his cell on death row at midnight and would be alive today. 

The ACLU of Alabama believes the death penalty is discriminatory, arbitrary, and violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment. The execution of Mr. Barber did not promote public safety and was not justice. People should never be used as “guinea pigs” and Governor Ivey should follow Justice Sotomayor’s guidance to suspend this unconstitutional practice until an outside entity can evaluate the State's execution protocols. 

Learn more about the ACLU of Alabama’s work on smart justice and prison reform at: