MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The European Union has asked Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to halt the execution of Matthew Reeves “on the grounds of Mr. Reeves’ intellectual disability.”

Reeves’ execution is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 27, but it is currently blocked by a federal court order. Lawyers for the State of Alabama have appealed that order to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has not yet ruled on the matter.

In a letter released by the European Union on Monday, Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis wrote that executing Reeves is “contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and standards.” Ivey should “grant clemency or issue a temporary reprieve” in Reeves’ case, Lambrinidis said.

“Mr. Reeves’ IQ range is in the 60s, placing him in the borderline range of intelligence,” the letter said. “We also understand that Alabama law allows death row inmates to choose their method of execution and that Mr. Reeves’ intellectual disability prevented him from choosing his preferred method of nitrogen hypoxia. In the case of Mr. Reeves, capital punishment would constitute excessive punishment.”

Reeves, who was convicted of the 1996 murder of Willie Johnson, is challenging his execution by lethal injection in federal court. In his lawsuit, Reeves argues that the state violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they did not aid him in understanding a form that would have allowed him to opt into an execution via nitrogen suffocation.

An execution using nitrogen suffocation, which involves replacing oxygen needed to breathe with nitrogen gas, has never been carried out in the United States. Execution through the use of nitrogen suffocation was approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2018. Oklahoma and Mississippi are the only other states to allow the practice.

In its letter, the EU said it recognizes that “the murder of Willie Johnson was a terrible crime deserving of strong punishment,” but that executing Reeves “can never mitigate for loss of life.”

Asked for a response to the EU’s letter and other requests for clemency in the case, Gina Maiola, Gov. Ivey’s director of communications, did not directly address whether the governor will heed calls to stop the execution.

“As with any case, the governor takes these very seriously and will thoroughly review all of the facts and information,” Maiola said via email.

You can read the EU’s full letter to Ivey below.


This is not the first time the EU has weighed in on U.S. executions. On Monday, the union of 27 countries also asked that Oklahoma’s governor halt the execution of Donald Anthony Grant. In 2018, it asked Ivey to halt the execution of Vernon Madison.