Alabama authorities canceled Thursday’s lethal injection of a man convicted of a 1999 workplace shooting due to time concerns and problems accessing his veins.
Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the state halted Alan Miller’s scheduled execution after determining they could not launch lethal injection before midnight. Prison officials made the decision around 11:30 pm, he said.
The last-minute reprieve came nearly three hours after a divided US Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to begin.
“Due to time constraints resulting from the delay in court proceedings, the execution was stayed once it was determined that the sentenced inmate’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol prior to the expiration of the death sentence. Ham said.
The execution team began trying to establish intravenous access, he said, but did not know for how long.
Miller was returned to his regular cell in a South Alabama prison.
Miller, 57, was convicted of killing three people in a workplace rampage in 1999, earning him the death penalty.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices lifted an injunction, issued by a federal judge and upheld by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, that had.
Miller’s attorneys said the state lost paperwork requesting that his execution be carried out using nitrogen hypoxia, a method legally available to him but never before used in the United States.
When Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution in 2018, state law gave inmates a brief window to designate it as their method of execution.
Miller testified that he turned in the paperwork four years ago selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution, placing the documents in a slot in his cell door at Holman Correctional Center for a prison worker to pick up.
Miller described how he disliked needles because of the painful attempts to draw blood. He said the nitrogen method reminded him of nitrous oxide gas used in dentists’ offices, and that seemed better than lethal injection.
“He didn’t want to be stabbed with a needle,” Miller said.
Alabama prison officials say they have no record of Miller returning the form and argued Miller was only trying to delay his execution.
U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday preventing the state from killing Miller by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia after finding it was “substantially likely” that Miller “filed a form timely election even though the state says it has no physical record of a form.
Prosecutors said Miller, a delivery truck driver, killed co-workers Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy at a business in suburban Birmingham and then went on to shoot former supervisor Terry Jarvis at a business where Miller had worked. previously. Each man was shot multiple times, and Miller was captured after a highway chase.
Trial testimony indicated that Miller believed the men were spreading rumors about him, including that he was gay. A psychiatrist hired by the defense found that Miller suffered from a serious mental illness, but also said that Miller’s condition was not bad enough to be used as a basis for an insanity defense under state law.
“In Alabama, we are committed to law and order and upholding justice. Despite the circumstances that led to this execution being called off, nothing will change the fact that a jury heard evidence in this case and made a decision. It doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Miller never contested his crimes. And it doesn’t change the fact that three families are still in mourning,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.
“We all know very well that Michael Holdbrooks, Terry Lee Jarvis and Christopher Scott Yancey did not choose to die from bullets to the chest. Tonight, my prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims as they are forced to continue living. the pain of his loss,” Ivey said.
Although Alabama has authorized nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution, the state has never executed anyone using the method, and the Alabama prison system has not finalized procedures for using it to carry out a death sentence.
Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed method of execution in which death would occur by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thereby depriving them of the oxygen necessary to maintain bodily functions. It is authorized as a method of execution in three states, but no state has attempted to execute an inmate using the unproven method. Alabama officials told the judge they are working to finalize the protocol.
Many states have struggled to purchase execution drugs in recent years after US and European drug companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections, prompting some states to seek alternative methods.
The aborted execution occurred after the one in Julyit took more than three hours to get going after the state struggled to set up an intravenous line, prompting accusations that the execution was botched.