Alabama halts execution due to time, IV access concerns

ATMORE, Ala. (AP) – Alabama officials called off Thursday’s lethal injection of a man convicted in a 1999 workplace shooting because of timing issues and problems accessing the inmate’s veins.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the state halted the planned execution of Alan Miller after they determined they could not get the lethal injection underway before the midnight deadline. Prison officials made the decision around 11.30 p.m. The last-minute postponement 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 delayed trial, the execution was halted when it was determined that the condemned inmate’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol until the expiration of the death sentence,” Hamm said.

Hamm said, “getting access to the veins took a little longer than we expected.” He did not know how long the team was trying to establish a connection, but noted that there are a number of procedures that must be performed before the team begins trying to connect the IV line.

Miller was returned to his regular cell at a South Alabama prison.

The aborted execution came after the state execution of Joe Nathan James in July it took more than three hours to get underway after the state had trouble setting up an IV line, leading to accusations that the execution was botched.

Miller, 57, was sentenced to death after being convicted of a 1999 workplace rampage in which he killed Terry Jarvis, Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy.

“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,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement. She added that three families are still grieving.

“We all know 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 victims’ families and loved ones as they are forced to continue to relive the pain of their loss,” Ivey said.

An anti-death penalty group said the situation with Miller’s attempted lethal injection sounded similar to other “botched” executions.

“It’s hard to see how they can continue with this broken method of execution that keeps going catastrophically wrong, over and over again. In its desperation to execute, Alabama is experimenting with prisoners behind closed doors — surely the definition of cruel and unusual punishment,” Maya Foa, director of the Reprieve US Forensic Justice Initiative, a human rights group opposed to the death penalty, said in a statement. .

Prosecutors said Miller, a truck driver, killed co-workers Holdbrooks and Yancy at a business in suburban Birmingham and then drove to shoot former supervisor Jarvis at a business where Miller had previously worked. Each man was shot multiple times, and Miller was captured after a highway chase.

The trial showed 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 and delusions, but also said Miller’s condition was not severe enough to use as the basis for an insanity defense under state law.

Justices in a 5-4 decision lifted an injunction — issued by a federal judge and left in place by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals — that had blocked Miller’s execution from moving forward. Miller’s lawyers said the state lost the paperwork to request 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 an execution method in 2018, state law gave inmates a short window to designate it as their execution method. Miller testified that he filed papers four years ago, choosing nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution, placing the documents in a slot in his cell door at Holman Correctional Facility for a prison worker to retrieve.

U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday blocking the state from killing Miller by means other than nitrogen hypoxia after finding it “substantially likely” that Miller “filed a timely election form, even though the state says it has no physical record of a form .”

Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed method of execution in which death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. Nitrogen hypoxia is approved for executions in three states, but no one has attempted to kill an inmate using the method. Alabama officials told the judge they are working to finalize the protocol.

Many states have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after American and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products for lethal injections. This has led some to seek alternative methods.

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This story has been corrected to show that Alabama’s last execution was in July.

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