The execution by lethal injection of Alan Eugene Miller by the state of Alabama was halted after the inmate’s veins could not be accessed within protocol time restrictions.
“Due to time constraints that resulted in delayed court proceedings, the execution was stayed once it was determined that the condemned man’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol prior to the expiration of the death sentence. ”, said John Hamm, the commissioner. from the Alabama Department of Corrections, he told reporters, according to al.com.
Miller was sentenced to death following a shooting in Shelby County on August 5, 1999, that left three men dead.
His execution was stopped around 11:30 p.m. Thursday night. The state’s death sentence expired at midnight.
The 57-year-old was sent back to his cell on death row.
Hamm said the families of the shooting victims were aware of the stay of execution.
Shortly after 9 p.m., the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state of Alabama had almost three hours to carry out the execution before the death sentence expired.
According to Hamm, staff began trying to determine the outline of Miller’s veins to administer the lethal injection, but the commissioner said he wasn’t sure how long staff spent trying to find a vein.
“I’m not sure… I wasn’t looking at that. We were more focused on the moment when the court, the Supreme Court, sent their order. Before we start accessing the veins, we have to do other things that take time,” Hamm said, according to al.com.
“There are several things we have to do before we even start accessing the veins. And that was taking a little longer than we expected,” she added under pressure from members of the media.
Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement that “in Alabama, we are committed to law and order and upholding justice. Despite the circumstances that led to the cancellation of this execution, nothing will change the fact that a jury heard the evidence in this case and made a decision.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Miller never questioned his crimes. And it doesn’t change the fact that three families are still grieving,” he added. “We all know very well that Michael Holdbrooks, Terry Lee Jarvis and Christopher Scott Yancey did not choose to die from bullets in the chest. Tonight, my prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims as they are forced to continue to live through the pain of their loss.”
A spokeswoman for the governor said that “she anticipates that the execution will restart as soon as possible.”
The shootings for which Miller was convicted took place at two workplaces, at his current job and a previous one. Holdbrooks and Yancey, aged 32 and 28 respectively, were killed at Ferguson Enterprises, and Jarvis, 39, was killed at Post Airgas in Pelham.
Members of the press were taken to the William C Holman Correctional Center for the execution at 10:34 pm and returned to the press center just before midnight, al.com reported.
In several filings Thursday, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office asked the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that, in effect, stayed the proceedings.
The Supreme Court granted the request to annul the injunction around 9:08 pm on Thursday night.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson voted to block the execution. The court did not issue an opinion.
Miller claims he filled out a form in June 2018 given to death row inmates at the prison, in which he selected the option to die by nitrogen hypoxia, a newly approved method of execution in the state at the time, rather than injection. lethal.
The Alabama Attorney General’s office argued that there is no record that the form was submitted and that the lethal injection procedure should continue.
On Monday, a federal judge said that “Miller has presented consistent, credible, and uncontroversial direct evidence that he filed an election form in the manner that he says was advertised to him by the [Alabama Department of Corrections]”. The judge added that there is “circumstantial evidence” that the department lost or misplaced the form after Miller filed it, al.com reported.
“After carefully reviewing hundreds of pages of evidence, weighing live testimony in court, and examining nearly half a dozen deposition transcripts, the district court concluded that Miller likely, in fact, chose execution by nitrogen hypoxia in the Scheduled time. by Alabama law,” Miller’s attorneys said at a Supreme Court briefing. “The district court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the State from executing Mr. Miller by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia, which is precisely what the State has agreed it must do for all other inmates who chose timely nitrogen hypoxia.
Lawyers said there was no reason for Miller to be executed on Thursday, rejecting the state for asking the US top court for an “emergency” order.
“What is the emergency? The State of Alabama wants to proceed with the execution of Alan Miller by lethal injection tonight,” the attorneys wrote. “Mr. Miller is not going anywhere, and neither is the Alabama Department of Corrections. The State is creating an emergency need to execute Mr. Miller even though the State may execute Mr. Miller once he completes his nitrogen hypoxia execution protocol.”
While several states have laws allowing the use of nitrogen hypoxia for executions, no state has enacted one. Just one or two breaths of inhaled nitrogen will cause a loss of consciousness and then death by suffocation since there is no oxygen.
But Hamm has said in an affidavit that the state is not currently ready to carry out such an execution, he told al.com.
The Attorney General’s office previously argued that “this case involves another set of last-minute meritless claims brought to delay an execution” and that “because nitrogen hypoxia is not currently available as a method of execution in Alabama, the order trial is an effective commutation of Miller’s death sentence.”
In its Supreme Court brief, the office said that “even assuming Miller’s novel right to better record-keeping was constitutionally knowable, Miller’s procedural claim would still fail… Miller inexplicably refused to seek this remedy of state law despite having more than two months to do so. after the Alabama Supreme Court set his execution date.”
An appeals team said in 2006 that Miller suffered “extreme physical and psychological abuse” by her father. Court records from the time indicate there was a “well-documented history of familial mental illness,” al.com reported.
“After [Miller] was born, his father frequently called him ‘the devil’ or ‘a demon,’” the appeal documents state. “He ‘deliberately tried to strike terror into the Miller children.'”
Court records say Miller moved out until he was 18 because of his “reckless, violent and unpredictable father.” His father worked as a truck driver, but he often quit his job or got fired and made his family move. The father went to prison for armed robbery, breaking and entering, and various drug-related offenses.
The documents state that Miller’s father was a “self-proclaimed healer,” who sometimes quit his job when he felt called by God to preach.
“The constant movements made it impossible for [Miller] and his siblings to make friends growing up,” their appellate attorneys said. “Because [Miller] constantly the ‘new kid’, he easily became the subject of teasing by other children, making him particularly sensitive to perceived teasing and teasing in his adult life as well. Due to the uncertainty that marred his years of development, “keeping to himself” became a way of life for him. [Miller].”
Court records also indicate the father abused his family, including stabbing Miller with a knife. He too had a gun and threatened to kill the family, who lived “in constant poverty”.
Miller said at an evidentiary hearing in his most recent lawsuit that he had a great dislike for needles.
“Mr. Miller will be executed, and there is every reason to believe that he will be soon. The only thing he asks is that the State respect the option that the legislature gave him: die by nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection, ”his lawyers wrote to the Supreme Court.
“You know, it’s my life. And I know he didn’t want to be stabbed with needles and all that,” Miller said in a statement, according to al.com. “I thought it would be simpler. They wouldn’t stab me like that or have allergic reactions to the chemicals they said were in the lethal injection.”
“I don’t want to die. I just want to be treated fairly,” she said.