U.S. Supreme Court rules Alabama can proceed with execution

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ATMORE, Ala. (AP) – A federal appeals court on Thursday denied Alabama’s request to carry out the scheduled evening execution of an inmate who claims the state lost his papers by choosing an alternative to injection lethal.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s request to lift a recent injunction restraining the state from carrying out the scheduled execution of Alan Miller. The state appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to move forward with its plan Thursday night.

Miller, 57, was convicted of murdering three people during a workplace rampage in 1999, carrying the death penalty. A judge blocked the 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.

Although Alabama allowed nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution, it never did, and the prison system has not finalized procedures for using it to carry out a death sentence.

In upholding the injunction, the appeals court noted what appeared to be a disorganized method of collecting forms by selecting an execution method. ‘Holman Jail officials chose not to maintain a log or list of inmates who submitted an election form choosing nitrogen hypoxia,’ the court said, finding the state had no nor demonstrated that he would “suffer irreparable harm” if the execution did. will not take place on Thursday.

The Alabama attorney general’s office quickly appealed the decision, writing that Miller’s claim that the state had lost the screening form Miller returned was not reason enough to halt the execution. .

The state wrote that Miller’s assertion that the state was negligent and “misplaced its method of election form” is “categorically insufficient to rise to the level of constitutional deprivation.”

The state also said that by blocking the execution, the lower courts had “nullified the interests of the state and of Miller’s victims and their families.”

Miller’s lawyers urged judges to keep the stay in place, saying state law gave him the right to request nitrogen and that he should not be blamed for the “extremely disorganized” method of the prison system of distribution and collection of forms on death row.

The death warrant for the execution was to expire at midnight, so the state would need the injunction lifted by then to let the execution continue. Alabama requested a decision by 8 p.m., which they did not get.

The state did not explain the reason for the 8 p.m. request, but the July execution of inmate Joe Nathan James was delayed by about three hours. The prison system said there were difficulties establishing an IV line, but did not say how long it took. Advocacy groups alleged the execution was botched.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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

Kim Chandler, The Associated Press

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