Alabama Death Row Drama: Inmate Files Lawsuit Over 'Cruel' Execution Plans

By Greg Moriarty | Tuesday, 02 April 2024 11:10 PM
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In a recent development, Alan Eugene Miller, an inmate from Alabama, has filed a lawsuit to halt the state's plan to execute him using nitrogen gas.

This comes after the state's first execution using this method, which Miller's attorneys argue was "botched" and resulted in prolonged and cruel suffering.

Miller, who survived a lethal injection attempt in 2022, lodged the lawsuit in a federal court on Friday. His legal team is challenging the execution method and has requested a judge to prevent any potential execution from proceeding.

The lawsuit contends that the first execution using nitrogen gas in January caused the inmate, Kenneth Smith, to convulse and shake on the gurney as he was being put to death. Miller's attorneys argue that using the same protocol, which involves a mask to deliver the nitrogen gas, would violate the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. They also claim that the state is seeking to execute Miller to "silence" him in retaliation for speaking out about his failed lethal injection attempt, which they argue infringes on his free speech and due process rights.

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"Rather than address these failures, the State of Alabama has attempted to maintain secrecy and avoid public scrutiny, in part by misrepresenting what happened in this botched execution," the lawyers wrote. They further argued that Alabama was incapable of conducting such an execution "without cruelly superadding pain and disgrace, and prolonging death."

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A representative for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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In February, Marshall’s office requested the Alabama Supreme Court to set an execution date for Miller using nitrogen gas. The court has yet to rule on this request. Miller is expected to file a response with the court this week.

The request for an execution date comes amidst ongoing debates between the state and advocates over what transpired during the state’s first execution using nitrogen. Smith reportedly convulsed and shook in seizure-like movements for several minutes on the death chamber gurney as he was put to death on Jan. 25.

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Miller was sentenced to death following his conviction for a 1999 workplace rampage that resulted in the deaths of Terry Jarvis, Lee Holdbrooks, and Scott Yancy.

Like Smith, Miller survived a previous lethal injection attempt. The state tried to execute Miller by lethal injection in September 2022, but the execution was halted after officials were unable to insert an intravenous line into the 351-pound prisoner’s veins.

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Following this attempt, the state agreed with Miller’s lawyers that it would never again seek to execute Miller by lethal injection and that any future execution attempts would be carried out with nitrogen gas. However, Miller's attorneys argue that witness accounts of Smith's execution contradict Marshall's assertion that it was "textbook" and went according to the state's plan.

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A separate lawsuit filed by another death row inmate seeking to block the use of nitrogen gas claimed that witness accounts show that Smith’s execution was a botched "human experiment."

An attorney listed for Miller did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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Miller recounted that during the aborted 2022 lethal injection attempt, prison staff poked him with needles for over an hour as they tried to find a vein and at one point left him hanging vertically as he lay strapped to a gurney.

Miller, a delivery truck driver, was convicted for the fatal workplace shootings of the three men. Prosecutors stated that Miller killed Holdbrooks and Yancy at one business and then drove to another location where he shot Jarvis. Each man was shot multiple times.

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Testimony at Miller's trial indicated that Miller was delusional and believed the men were spreading rumors about him. Jurors convicted Miller after 20 minutes of deliberation and then recommended a death sentence, which a judge imposed.

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