Alabama Prison Botches Another Lethal Injection

Alan Eugene Miller previously sued the state for failing to use his chosen method of execution
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2022 6:20 PM CDT
Another Prisoner Survived an Execution in Alabama
Officials escort murder suspect Alan Eugene Miller away from the Pelham City Jail in Alabama on Aug. 5, 1999. The state postponed his execution after his death warrant expired while prison personnel struggled to find a vein.   (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

Alan Eugene Miller is now America’s only living execution survivor, according to the Atlantic’s Elizabeth Bruenig, who was present at Alabama's Holman prison Sept. 22 with the expectation of witnessing Miller’s execution. Instead, Bruenig was present for yet another botched execution, Alabama’s second of the year. Miller made news last month when he sued Alabama, demanding it uphold his choice for execution by nitrogen hypoxia, an untested method the state is still not prepared to use, despite a state attorney telling a judge at the time that it would “very likely” be available by Sept. 22.

The day before Miller’s scheduled execution, a federal judge barred Alabama from executing Miller “by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia,” per the New York Times. However, the US Supreme Court overturned that ruling at roughly 9:25pm on Sept. 22, less than three hours before Miller’s death warrant was set to expire. Notably, the vote was 5-4, with Amy Coney Barrett joining the other three female justices. That dissent appears “wise, even prescient” in retrospect, writes Atlantic’s Bruenig, who also reported on the botched (albeit ultimately successful) execution of Joe Nathan James Jr., which took about three hours as Alabama Department of Corrections personnel struggled to find a vein.

Miller was strapped to a gurney around 10:35pm, but prison staff once again struggled to find a vein. About an hour later, guards abruptly left the execution chamber, but not before jacking the gurney into an upright position, where “Miller was left hanging … his hands and one foot bleeding from failed IV attempts, waiting to die,” Bruenig writes. Moments before midnight, officials informed Miller that his execution was postponed because his death warrant had expired. Miller’s attorneys plan to continue litigation while the state reschedules the execution. Meanwhile, Alabama also plans to move ahead with the scheduled execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith on Nov. 17. Doyle Hamm survived execution in Alabama in 2018; he died in prison of cancer earlier this year. (More lethal injection stories.)

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