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Mental capacity at issue as Alabama man faces execution date

Willie B. Smith III is set to be executed on Oct. 21, 2021 for the 1991 kidnapping and murder...
Willie B. Smith III is set to be executed on Oct. 21, 2021 for the 1991 kidnapping and murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson in Birmingham.(Source: Alabama Department of Correction)
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 9:28 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Federal judges have heard arguments over whether an Alabama inmate had the mental capacity to understand paperwork setting up his planned execution next week.

Willie B. Smith III is set to receive a lethal injection Oct. 21 for the 1991 kidnapping and murder of 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson in Birmingham.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on heard oral arguments Wednesday in an appeal focused on whether Smith was due assistance under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Lawyers said he needed such assistance to understand a form related to execution method selection.

A federal judge last month dismissed Smith’s lawsuit, but his attorneys appealed.

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