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Alabama abortion law raised hope for execution reprieve

ATMORE, Ala. - A lawyer for a condemned inmate said he hoped Gov. Kay Ivey might a grant clemency request and block the execution after she talked about her belief that “life is precious” in signing a bill to virtually outlaw abortion in Alabama.

It wasn’t to be.

Michael Brandon Samra was put to death by lethal injection Thursday night for his capital murder conviction in a quadruple killing after Ivey, a Republican, rejected his request for a reprieve just hours after signing the abortion law.

Steve Sears, the defence attorney, said he had a hard time reconciling Ivey’s “pro-life” position on abortion with her approval of the execution.

“I guess she didn’t mean it,” he said after the execution at Holman prison.

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In approving the new abortion law, Ivey said the legislation “stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”

After the execution, Ivey seemed to draw a line between that position and her stance on capital punishment for Samra, noting that “four lives were brutally taken far too soon.”

“Alabama will not stand for the loss of life in our state, and with this heinous crime, we must respond with punishment,” she said in a statement.

Samra, 41, and a friend, Mark Duke, were convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Duke’s father, the father’s girlfriend and the woman’s two elementary-age daughters in 1997. The two adults were shot and the children had their throats slit. Evidence showed Duke planned the killings because he was angry his father wouldn’t let him use his pickup.

Families of the victims thanked law enforcement and the community for support in a statement read by Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn after the execution.

“This has been a painful journey. Today justice was carried out,” said the statement from relatives, six of whom were witnesses.

Samra was aware of the new state law on abortion, Sears said, but Ivey’s position didn’t give him any hope for a reprieve.

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“He was resigned the whole time,” he said Friday. “Even if there had been a real chance for hope he wouldn’t have had it.”

Republican lawmakers passed the abortion law in hope of sparking a court challenge that will result in the U.S. Supreme Court reconsidering the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The law outlaws abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger and doesn’t include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

While women would not face criminal charges for seeking an abortion, anyone performing the procedure could be sentenced to as long as 99 years in prison.
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