Alabama abandons execution after failing to find vein for lethal injection

Alabama abandons execution after failing to find vein for lethal injection

Alan Miller’s judicial killing called off two months after execution of Joe Nathan James took three hours

Alabama's lethal injection chamber at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama.

Prison officials in Alabama abandoned an attempted lethal injection of a man on Thursday after trouble accessing his veins, two months after the state was accused of “cruel and unusual punishment” when it spent three hours executing Joe Nathan James.

Alabama halted the execution of Alan Miller, who was convicted of killing three people in a shooting in 1999, after they determined they could not get the lethal injection under way before a midnight deadline.

“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,” John Hamm, Alabama corrections commissioner, said.

Hamm said that “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 said there are a number of procedures to be done before the team begins trying to connect the intravenous line.

The aborted attempt to kill Miller is the second botched execution in Alabama in recent months.

In July it took between three and three and a half hours to carry out the lethal injection of James, an analysis by Reprieve US found.

Alan Miller.

“Alabama officials tortured Joe Nathan James to death for over three hours trying to set up an IV line, and then covered it up. Instead of pausing and investigating how their actions led to what may have been the longest recorded execution in our country’s history, they instead rushed Alan Miller to the execution chamber weeks later and tried to kill him in secret,” said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve US.

“Officials knew it was likely they would subject Alan Miller to the very same long and agonizing procedure as Joe Nathan James and Doyle Lee Hamm [whose execution was abandoned in 2018 after prison officials spent two and a half hours trying to access his veins] and yet they ploughed ahead anyway – adding to the state’s horrific history of 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.”

The attempt to execute Miller came hours after the US supreme court overturned a stay blocking his execution.

A federal judge placed a hold on the execution after Alabama said it would not be ready to use nitrogen hypoxia to kill Miller, who had requested nitrogen be used, rather than lethal injection, citing a fear of needles.

Miller testified that he turned in paperwork four years ago selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method, a right in Alabama.

The judge said the execution should be paused after finding it was “substantially likely” that Miller “submitted a timely election form even though the State says that it does not have any physical record of a form”.