- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

ALABASTER, Ala. (AP) - Executions are at a standstill in Alabama because of a shortage of a drug needed for lethal injections, but Gov. Robert Bentley said Monday he is against switching back to the electric chair when the state resumes putting inmates to death.

Speaking with reporters during an appearance in Shelby County, Bentley said he opposed the idea of resorting to electrocution, which was the state’s sole method of execution - in a chair nicknamed “Yellow Mama” - until 2002.

“I personally had rather not see that,” Bentley said. “We have other ways.”

Changing execution methods would require rewriting state law, and a key legislator on prison issues, state Sen. Cam Ward, said giving up the state’s current method of lethal injection would involve too many legal hurdles.

“It’s just a litigation nightmare for the state,” said Ward, R-Ala., who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

Ward said he expects the GOP-controlled Legislature to approve a bill next session that would allow the state to withhold the names of the makes of lethal injection drugs while also letting the companies be held liable in cases of wrongdoing. A similar measure died this year.

“That was the compromise we had this (session) but it got held up by the budget,” Ward said.

Lethal injection is Alabama’s primary method of execution under a law passed 12 years ago, but prisoners also can choose electrocution. None has done so since the change.

The attorney general’s office last month said executions were at a standstill because the Department of Corrections has run out of pentobarbital, one of the three drugs used in Alabama’s method of injection system. Almost 200 convicted murderers are currently on death row in the state, including one inmate who has been there since 1979, and Alabama’s last lethal injection was in 2013.

The issue of capital punishment was brought back to the forefront last week after a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma, where an inmate writhed after drugs were administered through an intravenous line and died of an apparent heart attack more than 40 minutes after the execution began.

Asked about the fallout of the Oklahoma execution, Bentley said his office will be in contact with Alabama prison officials seeking alternative ways to perform lethal injections.

Bentley said the death penalty “is not something I take joy in.”

“But I also don’t take joy in the crime that’s been convicted by the people that have been convicted,” he said. “This is a very sobering situation we have to all take very seriously.”

Some have suggested switching to alternative methods of execution, but Ward said defense lawyers would file lawsuits and appeals over any new method.

“I know there’s a desire to see firing squads or hanging, but the legal challenges are just so much,” Ward said.

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