ATMORE, Ala. (AP) – A divided U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Alabama can lethally inject an inmate convicted in a 1999 workplace shooting Thursday night, overturning two lower court rulings in favor of the convict and its asking for another method of execution.
The 5-4 ruling overturned rulings by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a federal judge that the lethal injection could not take place after Alan Miller’s attorneys said the state lost his documents requesting that his execution be carried out by nitrogen hypoxia, a legal method. available for him but never used before in the US
Miller, 57, was convicted of murdering three people during a workplace rampage in 1999, carrying the death penalty. A judge blocked the state’s execution plan earlier this week.
Miller testified that he handed over documents four years ago choosing nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution, placing it through a slot in his cell door at Holman Correctional Facility so that a prison employee can get it back.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. issued a preliminary injunction restraining the state from killing Miller by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia, after finding it “essentially probable” that Miller “subjected a timely election form even though the state says it has no physical record of a form.
Thursday night’s Supreme Court ruling overturned that injunction at the state’s request. Judges lifted the stay around 9 p.m., giving the state a three-hour window to start the execution before the death warrant expires at midnight. The execution of Joe Nathan James in July took over three hours to start after the state had difficulty establishing an IV line.
Although Alabama has authorized nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution, it has never executed anyone with this method and the state 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 be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thereby depriving them of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. It is authorized as a method of execution in three states, but no state has attempted to put an inmate to death by the untested method. Alabama officials told the judge they were working to finalize the protocol.
Many states have struggled to buy enforcement drugs in recent years after US and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections. This has led some to look for alternative methods.
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 opted for nitrogen when the form was distributed on death row because he disliked the needles.
“Just because the state is not yet ready to execute anyone by nitrogen hypoxia does not mean that it will harm the state or the public to honor the timely election of hypoxia to the Nitrogen by Miller. In contrast, if an injunction is not issued, Miller will be irrevocably deprived of his choice as to how he dies – a choice the Alabama legislature has granted him,” Huffaker wrote.
Miller was visited by family members and a lawyer on Thursday as he waited to see if his execution would go ahead. He was given a food platter that included meatloaf, cart steak, macaroni and fries, the prison system said.
Prosecutors said Miller, a delivery truck driver, killed his colleagues Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy at a business in the Birmingham suburbs, then left to shoot former supervisor Terry Jarvis at a business where Miller worked previously. Each man was shot multiple times, and Miller was captured after a freeway chase.
Testimony at trial 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 serious enough to form the basis of an insanity defense under the law of the state. ‘State.
This story has been corrected to show Alabama’s last execution was in July.