MONTGOMERY, Ala. — 51-year-old Willie B. Smith III is set to be executed by the state of Alabama in less than a week. The execution was allowed to move forward with COVID-19 precautions following an appeal filed by Smith’s legal team. Eight Alabama Supreme Court justices voted to deny a rescheduling of his execution date.
“Smith entirely has failed to establish that the pandemic has prevented him and his counsel from investigating and obtaining evidence relevant to his clemency proceeding or from preparing an adequate clemency petition,” the state said.
Smith was convicted in the murder of 21-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson in 1991. Smith and a 17-year-old woman robbed Johnson at an ATM machine before stealing her car. The car was later found at a cemetery with Johnson in the trunk dead of shotgun wounds to the head. Smith was found to have been the trigger man.
Smith is set to die by lethal injection on February 11 at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. The southern Alabama prison is one of the nation’s most violent and has been referred to as “the slaughter pen”. Former employees have revealed that the facility is overpopulated and understaffed.
Due to COVID-19, The ADOC was forced to make changes in the process of executions. Smith is now only permitted to have one visitor present, and his request for a spiritual advisor in the chamber has been denied. Only one reporter from the Associated Press will be permitted to witness the execution. Smith has been required to wear face masks and social distance at all times, as well as undergo mandatory sanitation procedures and temperature checks.
Smith’s last appeal was made in 2012. His legal team argued that his execution would be unconstitutional due to his intellectual disability. The claim was rejected by the Alabama Court of Appeals.