A divided US Supreme Court said Alabama can proceed Thursday night with the execution of an inmate convicted of a 1999 workplace shooting.
Judges in a 5-4 decisionthat had prevented Alan Miller’s death warrant from going forward. The decision reversed rulings by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a federal judge that lethal injection could not take place after Miller’s attorneys said the state lost its paperwork requesting a method of injection. alternate execution.
Miller, 57, was convicted of killing three people in a workplace rampage in 1999, earning him the death penalty. A judge blocked the execution plan earlier this week.
Miller testified that he had turned in paperwork four years ago selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution, placing it in a slot in his cell door at Holman Correctional Center for a prison worker to pick up.
On Tuesday, US District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state from killing Miller by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia, after determining he was “substantially likely” that Miller “filed a timely election form even though the state says it has no physical record of a form.”
The Supreme Court ruling Thursday night struck down that injunction at the state’s request.
Although Alabama has authorized nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution, it has never done so and the prison system has not finalized procedures to use it to carry out a death sentence.
Miller received visits from family members and a lawyer Thursday as he waited to see if his execution would proceed. He was given a tray of food that included meatloaf, steak, macaroni and fries, the prison system said.
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.
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.
“Just because the state is not yet prepared to execute someone for nitrogen hypoxia does not mean it will hurt the state or the public to honor Miller’s timely nitrogen hypoxia election. To the contrary, if a warrant is not issued, Miller will be irrevocably deprived of his choice of how he will die, a choice given to him by the Alabama Legislature,” Huffaker wrote.
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.