Brooks was killed by lethal injection at 6:38 p.m. after saying he hopes his execution brings closure, according to reporters who witnessed it. Officials with the Alabama Department of Corrections could not be reached Thursday.
Brooks is the first inmate put to death by Alabama since July 2013, when Andrew Lackey was killed by lethal injection for killing a World War II veteran.
While he challenged the lethal-injection procedure in Alabama, Brooks also turned to a very recent Supreme Court ruling in seeking to have the execution called off.
He had argued that Alabama’s death-penalty system is “virtually identical” to the Florida system the U.S. Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional last week. The justices struck down Florida’s unusual system of imposing death sentences because the state which allows judges, rather than juries, to make that call. Florida lawmakers have vowed to quickly change the state’s law to comply with the ruling.
Brooks’s lawyers argued that the Supreme Court ruling in the Florida case (Hurst v. Florida) also invalidates the way Alabama hands down death sentences.
Authorities in Alabama did not agree. Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, said after the Supreme Court ruling that it did not affect her state.
“In the Florida case, the holding is that a jury must find the aggravating factor in order to make someone eligible for the death penalty,” Patterson said in a statement. “Alabama’s system already requires the jury to do just that.”
Strange’s office wrote in a filing to the U.S. Supreme Court that in Brooks’s case, a jury found the aggravating circumstances allowing him to be sentenced to death, while the Florida ruling focused on that state’s requirement that a trial judge find these circumstances.
“Alabama’s capital sentencing scheme is wholly different from Florida’s in this specific regard,” Strange’s office stated in the filing, which was submitted Wednesday.
The Supreme Court denied Brooks’s request. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred with the decision, with Sotomayor writing a concurrence noting that she believed “procedural obstacles would have prevented us from granting relief.”
In a dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that “the unfairness inherent in treating this case differently from others which used similarly unconstitutional procedures only underscores the need to reconsider the validity of capital punishment under the Eighth Amendment.”
Brooks also unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court in asking them to stop the execution because of other court action questioning its proposed method of lethal injection. That request was denied without any recorded dissents.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Tuesday had also rejected an appeal from Brooks that had challenged the state’s lethal-injection protocol.
Alabama is one of the country’s most active death-penalty states, executing more inmates than all but six other states since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state did not carry out any executions in 2014 or 2015, the first time it did not execute anyone over back-to-back years since 1993 and 1994.
This post has been updated.