Alabama authorities canceled Thursday a lethal injection for a man convicted of a 1999 workplace shooting because of timing issues and problems accessing his veins.
Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the state halted the planned execution of Alan Miller after determining it could not execute the lethal injection before midnight. According to him, the prison management made the decision around 11:30 p.m.
The last-minute delay came nearly three hours after the US Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to begin.
“Due to time constraints resulting from a late trial, the sentence was vacated once it was determined that a condemned inmate’s veins could not be accessed under our protocol until the death sentence expired,” Hamm said.
He said the enforcement team has begun trying to establish IV access, but he doesn’t know how long.
Miller was returned to a regular cell at the South Alabama jail.
Miller, 57, was convicted of the 1999 workplace murders of three people and sentenced to death.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices lifted an injunction issued by a federal judge and upheld by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which.
Miller’s lawyers said the state had lost documents requesting that his execution be carried out using nitrous oxide, a method that is legally available to him but has never been used in the United States before.
When Alabama approved nitrous oxide as an execution method in 2018, state law gave inmates a short window to use it.
Miller testified that he turned in the paperwork four years ago, choosing nitrous hypoxia as his method of punishment, placing the paperwork in a crack in his cell door at Holman Correctional Facility to be retrieved by a prison worker.
Miller described how he disliked needles because of the pain of trying to draw blood. He said the nitrous method reminded him of the nitrous oxide used by dentists, and it was better than lethal injection.
“I didn’t want to get stuck with a needle,” Miller said.
Alabama state prison officials say they have no record of Miller returning the uniform and say Miller was simply trying to delay his sentence.
U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from killing Miller by any means other than nitrous hypoxia after finding that it was “highly probable” that Miller “filed his election form in a timely manner, even though the state says he has no physical record of the form.”
Prosecutors said Miller, a truck driver, killed co-workers Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancey at a business in suburban Birmingham, then drove to shoot former supervisor Terry Jarvis at a business where Miller used to work. Each man was shot multiple times and Miller was captured after a highway chase.
Court testimony revealed that Miller believed the men were spreading rumors about him, including that he was gay. A psychiatrist hired by the defense found Miller suffered from severe mental illness, but also said Miller’s condition was not bad enough to use as the basis for an insanity defense under state law.
“In Alabama, we are committed to law and order and the preservation of justice. Regardless of the circumstances that led to the overturning of this sentence, nothing will change the fact that the jury heard the evidence in this case and reached a decision. That won’t change the fact that Mr. Miller has never contested his crimes. And it doesn’t change the fact that three families are still grieving,” 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 continue to bear the pain of their loss,” Ivey said.
Although Alabama has authorized nitrous oxide as an execution method, the state has never executed anyone using the method, and the Alabama prison system has not completed procedures for using it to carry out death sentences.
Nitrous hypoxia is a proposed method of execution in which death is brought about by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thus depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. It is authorized as an execution method in three states, but no state has attempted to execute an inmate using the unproven method. Alabama officials told the judge they were working to finalize the protocol.
Many states have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European drug companies began blocking their products from being used in lethal injections, prompting some states to seek alternative methods.
The suspended sentence took place after Julyit took more than three hours to start after the state had difficulty setting up an IV line, leading to allegations of a botched execution.