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Alabama will no longer try lethal injection on ‘execution survivor’ Alan Eugene Miller, but it may try a new method

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Death Penalty Alabama
Officials escort murder suspect Alan Eugene Miller away from the Pelham City jail in Alabama, in an August 5, 1999 file photo. Miller was sentenced to death after being convicted of a rampage at the scene of work in 1999.

Dave Martin/AP


Montgomery, Alabama – Alabama will not seek another lethal injection date for an inmate whose September execution was halted due to issues establishing an IV line, according to the terms of a settlement agreement approved Monday . The state has agreed to never again use lethal injection as a method of execution to put Alan Eugene Miller to death.

Any future efforts to execute Miller will be by nitrogen hypoxia, an execution method permitted in Alabama but which has never been used to carry out a death sentence in the United States. There is currently no protocol in place for the use of nitrogen hypoxia.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. approved the settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by Miller seeking to prevent another lethal injection attempt. Miller had argued that the state had lost documents indicating that he had chosen nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution, and then subjected him to torture during the failed execution attempt. At the time, Miller’s attorneys called him the “only living execution survivor in the United States.”

alan-miller.jpg
An undated photograph provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows inmate Alan Eugene Miller.

Alabama Department of Corrections via AP


Miller was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on September 22, but the state canceled execution after being unable to connect an IV line to the inmate of 351 lbs. Miller said when prison staff tried to find a vein, they pricked him with needles for over an hour and at one point left him hanging vertically while he was tied to a litter.

Alabama has acknowledged IV access issues in at least four executions since 2018. Three of those had to be halted.

Earlier this month, Kenneth Eugene Smith’s execution was halted after the execution team tried for an hour to hook up an IV line.

Last week, Smith’s attorneys lodged a complaint against the prison system, claiming the state violated the US Constitution, various court orders and its own lethal injection protocol in the botched execution attempt earlier this month. Smith’s attorneys are asking a federal judge to bar the state from making a second attempt to execute him, saying Smith was already “subjected to ever-increasing levels of pain and torture” on the night of the execution failed.

Kenneth Eugene Smith
Kenneth Eugene Smith

Alabama Department of Corrections


Alabama too canceled the execution of Doyle Lee Hamm in 2018 for the same reasons. He struck a deal with the state that prevented further execution attempts, although he remained on death row. He later died of natural causes.

Prison officials blamed time constraints, particularly the midnight deadline, for the three halted executions.

The month of July of the state the execution of Joe Nathan James took placebut only after a three-hour delay caused at least in part by the same problem accessing an IV line.

Alabama executes inmate convicted of murdering girlfriend in 1994
An undated photo of Joe Nathan James Jr., who was convicted of murder in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend in 1994.

Alabama Department of Corrections


Last week, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced a pause on executions to review procedures. The Republican governor expressed his concern for the families of the victims.

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

The settlement agreement likely precludes another execution attempt in the near future, as Alabama has not announced procedures for using nitrogen hypoxia, and there will be litigation over the humanity of the method before a State attempts to use it.

Seventeen men have been executed in the United States this year, according to data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center. The center says Alabama has carried out 70 executions since 1976 and there are currently 170 death row inmates in the state.

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