When the Supreme Court gave way to Alan Miller’s lethal injection Thursday night, the triple killer spent several hours believing he was close to death. But when the moment came, prison officials had trouble getting into his veins, and as midnight approached, a decision was suddenly made to call off the execution.
Miller, 57, was sentenced to death for the murder of three men in a workplace shooting in 1999. The choice to stop proceedings and return Miller to his cell came around 11:30 p.m. just hours after judges decided the execution should continue.
The Supreme Court has overturned earlier decisions preventing the execution at Miller’s request by asphyxiation to death by hypoxia – a hitherto untested method of execution that Alabama authorized in 2018. The state said it had no record of Miller ever offering such request, but Miller insists that he signed a form requesting murder by inhaling nitrogen gas because he is afraid of needles.
“Due to time constraints resulting from delayed court proceedings, the execution was rescinded once it was determined that the condemned inmate’s veins could not be accessed according to our protocol before the death warrant had expired,” John Hamm, the Alabama Correctional Commissioner said, according to the News agencyadding that “reaching the veins took a little longer than we expected.”
In 1999, delivery truck driver Miller shot and killed his co-workers Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancey in Birmingham. Then he headed to a company he previously worked for and killed his former supervisor, Terry Jarvis. He was caught after a high speed chase.
At the trial, the court heard that Miller believed his victims were spreading rumors about him, including that he was gay. Although a psychiatrist concluded that Miller was delusional and had severe mental health problems, his condition was not serious enough to warrant a defense of insanity under state law.
“Despite the circumstances that led to the overturning of this execution, nothing will change the fact that the jury heard the evidence in this case and made a decision,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement, adding that the families of the victims were still grieving. “We all know very well that Michael Holdbrooks, Terry Lee Jarvis and Christopher Scott Yancy did not choose to die with a bullet to the chest. Tonight, my prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims as they are forced to continue to ease the pain of their loss.”
Although the execution was approved Thursday, critics questioned the 5-4 Supreme Court order. “Today is another clear example that, when it comes to executions, it is the outcome that matters to this court, whether it is legal or not,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. New York times. “This is not what a neutral ruling in law does. This is not what a Sharia court does.”