Alabama executed a death row inmate despite pleas from the victim’s family not to

“Justice has been served. Joe James was killed 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 Thursday in a press release.

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

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

James was convicted and sentenced to death for fatally shooting Smith, 26, whom he had dated in the early 1990s.

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

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

“We don’t think that (execution) will be requested because it won’t bring her back,” he added.

Helvetius Hall, Smith’s brother, also asked for a prison sentence instead of death.

“He did a horrible thing,” he told the local press. “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 Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement that Hall was “the victim of repeated harassment, serious threats and ultimately cold-blooded murder” by James.

“Tonight, a just and lawful sentence was carried out and an unmistakable message was sent that Alabama stands with victims of domestic violence,” Ivey said. CNN has reached out to the governor for further comment.

James and Smith had a “volatile” relationship, according to a U.S. Court of Appeals document summarizing the case. After they broke up, he stalked and harassed her, went to her home uninvited and threatened to kill her and her ex-husband, the filing details. In 1994, he followed her to a friend’s house and then shot her three times, killing her, according to the document.

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 the erroneous admission of hearsay evidence, according to appeals court.

Before the retrial, James’ legal team negotiated a deal with prosecutors in which he would receive life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea, but James rejected that plan, according to the document.

“James explained that he had a pretty good time on death row: he had his own room, his own television that he could control to watch what he wanted, and plenty of reading material,” the file says. “He didn’t have to worry about being attacked by other prisoners, because he was always one-on-one with the guards.”

In the retrial, a jury again convicted James of capital murder and sentenced him to death in 1999, and appeals courts have upheld the decision. In 2020, the United States Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and rejected James’ claim of ineffective counsel.

A motion to stay his execution was denied 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 decision to block the execution. Matthew Reeves, who had been convicted of the robbery and murder of Willie Johnson in 1996, was executed less than two hours later. Alabama currently has 166 people on death row. The state’s next scheduled 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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