ATMORE, Ala. (WIAT) — The State of Alabama abandoned an attempt Thursday night to execute Alan Eugene Miller for the 1999 murders of Christopher Yancy, Lee Holdbrooks and Terry Jarvis.
The decision to end efforts to execute Miller came around 11:30 p.m. after prison staff had difficulties accessing Miller’s veins, according to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm.
“Due to the time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined that the condemned’s veins could not be accessed according to our protocol,” Hamm said.
Earlier Thursday night, the U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for the execution, lifting a lower court order that had put the lethal injection on hold.
Still, Alabama officials were not able to carry out Miller’s execution before his death warrant expired at midnight, but Commissioner Hamm confirmed that staff did begin the process of trying to access Miller’s veins before the execution was abandoned. He said the state did not perform a “cut down” on Miller. An independent autopsy confirmed that the state had performed the outdated procedure on Joe Nathan James ahead of his execution earlier this year.
After the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday night, media witnesses were transported by prison van to just outside the gates of Holman Correctional Facility around 10:40. Around an hour later, the witnesses were transferred to another van and transported to just outside death row. After a few minutes, a prison spokesperson said the van would head back to the media center. The spokesperson would not answer initially answer questions about the execution, including whether Miller is alive or dead.
The Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the execution to move forward came after two federal courts ruled that the condemned inmate was “substantially likely” to have opted into death by nitrogen hypoxia, an untested method of execution allowed under Alabama law. Executing Miller by lethal injection, they ruled, may violate his constitutional rights.
In the end, in a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court chose to lift the court order preventing Miller’s execution. The court did not provide a written explanation of its decision.
In the 24 hours before his scheduled execution, prison officials said Miller had been visited by family members and an attorney. His “last meal,” officials had said, included meatloaf and chuckwagon steak.
Miller is now back in his cell, Hamm said.