Judge Blocks Execution in Alabama After Inmate Testifies They Lost His Paperwork

An inmate in Alabama scheduled for execution hand his death blocked by a federal judge because he claimed the state lost his paper work that requested an alternative to lethal injection. 

U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. issued a preliminary injunction that will block the state from executing Alan Miller on Thursday. This will be in effect unless they use the method of nitrogen hypoxia, which is an untested method that was requested by Miller. The state says that they are not ready to use such a method. 

Alan Miller was sentenced to die for his crimes after being convicted of killing three people in a 1999 workplace shooting. 

The judge stated in giving the temporary injunction, “Miller will likely suffer irreparable injury if an injunction does not issue because he will be deprived of the ability to die by the method he chose and instead will be forced to die by a method he sought to avoid and which he asserts will be painful.”

Judge Huffaker also added that the injury would be the loss of his “final dignity,” which is the choice of how he will die. 

With this injunction, the state of Alabama will be blocked from carrying out the lethal injection set for Thursday. The state still has the option to appeal the decision by the judge. The state attorney general’s office has not returned requests for a comment on this case. 

Nitrogen hypoxia is a newly proposed execution method in which death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen. This would deprive the criminal of the oxygen that is necessary to maintain bodily functions. This method of execution has been authorized by some states, including Alabama, for execution, but it has never been used by a state to put an inmate to death. 

When the state of Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative execution method in 2018, the state law gave inmates a short window to designate it as their execution method. Miller maintains in testimony that he returned a state form that selected it on the same day it was distributed to inmates by a prison worker. 

He said that he left the form in the slot of his cell door for a worker to collect, but he did not see who picked it up. 

Prison officials in the state have no record of Miller returning the form and argued that he is just trying to prolong his execution.

Prison Officials Argue Inmate is Just Trying to Delay Execution

Judge Huffaker wrote that it is impossible to rule out that Miller is lying about his actions in order to delay the day of his death, but he also said that the testimony from Miller was credible. He added that it is “substantially likely” that Miller elected nitrogen hypoxia in a timely fashion. 

The judge also said that it was possible that Alabama would soon be able to use nitrogen from all that appears to be true. The state intends to announce its readiness to use this method in the upcoming weeks.

The Alabama Department of Corrections communicated to the judge that the state has completed most of the preparations that were needed to conduct execution by nitrogen hypoxia, but it is not completely ready to implement it.

Alan Miller was a delivery truck drive and was convicted in the 1999 workplace shootings that killed Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis in the suburbs of Birmingham. He shot both Holdbrooks and Yancy at one location and then drove to another to shoot Jarvis, according to the evidence at his trial. 

A psychiatrist for the defense said that Miller was delusional and suffered from severe mental illness. But they said his condition was not bad enough to use insanity as a defense under state law.