Last Thursday night, the state of Alabama took three hours to find a vein in Joe Nathan James Jr. through which officials could pump lethal injection drugs and execute him, a process the Department of Corrections says , was “nothing out of the ordinary”.
Alabama seems to specialize in its extraordinary sense of the ordinary, especially when it comes to the death penalty. It has now emerged that during this execution, prison officials subjected female reporters who had come as witnesses to the proceedings to a clothing inspection, attempting to exclude a woman from the death chamber on the grounds that her skirt was too short.
Ivana Hrynkiw, a reporter for AL.com, Alabama’s main media outlet, recounted how she was pushed aside by a prison official and said her skirt was too small to meet regulations. “I tried pulling my skirt over my hips to lengthen the skirt, but was told it was still not appropriate,” she said on Twitter.
The paradox that the state went to such lengths to maintain what it sees as sartorial property even as it prepared to kill a man seems to have been lost on the Department of Corrections. Officials also subjected Associated Press reporter Kim Chandler to a full body inspection, forcing her to have her clothing length checked. Chandler said such indignity had this has never happened to him before in the many times she has covered executions since 2002.
Hrynkiw was eventually allowed into the death chamber after borrowing a pair of waterproof fisherman’s waders from a photographer, tying their suspenders under her shirt to keep them in place. This was considered appropriate attire when observing forensic murder.
But even then, it didn’t stop. The reporter was told that her open-toed heels were a violation of regulations and she was forced to put salvaged tennis shoes in her car.
“I felt embarrassed to have my body and clothes questioned in front of a room of people most of whom I’ve never met,” Hrynkiw said. “I sat down, tried to stop blushing and did my job.”
After all that, the reporter did her job, and so did Alabama. After three hours of digging for a vein, he found one and continued the execution.
James Jr was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the 1994 murder of 26-year-old Faith Hall. James Jr and Hall had briefly dated before she rejected him, authorities said.
Hall’s daughters wanted James Jr to spend the rest of his life in prison but pleaded for him not to be executed.