Alabama officials called off the lethal injection of a man convicted in a 1999 workplace shooting on Thursday because of time concerns and trouble accessing the inmate’s veins.
Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the state halted the scheduled execution of Alan Miller after they determined they could not get the lethal injection underway before a midnight deadline.
Prison officials made the decision at about 11:30 pm. The last-minute reprieve came nearly three hours after a divided US Supreme Court had cleared the way for the execution to begin.
“Due to time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned inmate’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the death warrant,” Hamm said.
Hamm said "accessing the veins was taking a little bit longer than we anticipated." He did not know how long the team tried to establish a connection, but noted there are a number of procedures to be done 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's July execution of Joe Nathan James took more than three hours to get underway after the state had difficulties establishing an intravenous 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.
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“Despite the circumstances that led to the cancellation of this execution, nothing will change the fact that a jury heard the evidence of this case and made a decision," Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. She added that three families are still grieving.
An anti-death penalty group said the situation with Miller's attempted lethal injection sounded similar to other “botched” executions.
"It is hard to see how they can persist with this broken method of execution that keeps going catastrophically wrong, again and again. In its desperation to execute, Alabama is experimenting on prisoners behind closed doors — surely the definition of cruel and unusual punishment,” Maya Foa, director of Reprieve US Forensic Justice Initiative, a human rights group opposed to the death penalty, said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Miller, a delivery truck driver, killed co-workers Holdbrooks and Yancy at a business in suburban Birmingham and then drove off 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.
Trial testimony indicated 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 wasn’t bad enough to use as a 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 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - that had blocked Miller's execution from going forward. Miller’s attorneys said the state lost the paperwork requesting his execution be carried out using nitrogen hypoxia, a method legally available to him but never before used in the US.
Many states have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections. That has led some to seek alternate methods.