Holman makes lethal transition
By By ROBBIE BYRD – Special to The Standard
It only took two months to build, and in only a matter of days, officials will put it to the test.
The space where "Yellow Mama," the state's electric chair, used to sit has been occupied by a hospital gurney.
With the equipment, facilities and renovations complete, state officials said Monday the next execution, scheduled for Oct. 17, will be done by lethal injection. The Alabama Department of Corrections opened the newly renovated death chamber Monday to members of the media for viewing.
The room, Holman Correctional Center Warden Grantt Culliver said, is very different than the one before it.
DOC Commissioner Mike Haley said he was proud of the facility as well, describing it as "phenomenal."
While costing roughly $185,000 to renovate, Culliver said inmate labor was used to shave off some of the costs.
The DOC plans to replace the funds pulled from other projects with part of the $2.4 million the City of Atmore plans to hand over. Atmore has agreed to purchase 410 acres south of I-65 along Hwy. 21 from the DOC. The sale has not yet been finalized.
One of the biggest changes in protocol, Haley said, was the transition from the normal midnight death time to 6 p.m.
The process includes inserting two IV's into the inmate, a saline solution is inserted, followed by sodium phiopental, another saline solution, pancuromium bromide, a final saline shot and a dosage of potassium chloride.
All drugs are administered at 60 cc volume.
Dr. Lacey Lee, an Atmore veterinarian who said she performs euthanasia on a "fairly regular basis," agrees that the cocktail would be an effective means to kill a person.
Sodium Phiopental, Lee said, is used as an anesthetic. It's used as an "induction agent," and basically puts the inmate to sleep.
Pancuromium Bromide is used to paralyze the respiratory system, causing the diaphragm to completely relax causing the inmate to stop breathing, Lee said.
The last drug in the cocktail, potassium chloride finishes the execution by paralyzing the heart.
Lee agreed that 60 cc of each drug would be a substantial amount of drugs to kill a human being.
Culliver, according to state law, will administer the three drugs along with the saline solutions from a control room directly behind the chamber.
The injections must be delivered separately and the lines cleaned out with saline solution after each drug injection, otherwise the chemicals could become erosive and damage the IV lines, Culliver said.
After Culliver is convinced the inmate is dead, a doctor is called in to declare the inmate dead. The body is then transferred to the Alabama Department of Forensic Science for an autopsy.
Just behind the gurney are the connector panels for "Yellow Mama," which are required to be in place in the event an inmate requests to die by electrocution.
Those sentenced to the death penalty after July 1 will not have a choice.
Haley said the chair had been placed in the prison's "attic" for storage. When the chair is no longer needed, Haley said the Alabama Department of Archives and History will have the first right to the relic.
Donald Dallas, who was convicted in 1995 on a kidnapping and murder charge in Montgomery, will be the first to die by lethal injection on Oct. 17.