A federal judge has blocked the lethal injection execution of a convicted triple-murderer in Alabama after a long and tempestuous debate surrounding execution methods.
Alan Eugene Miller is currently sitting on Alabama’s death row, where he was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Miller was sentenced after being convicted of murdering three coworkers in a shooting rampage. A defense psychiatrist said Miller was delusional and suffered from severe mental illness, which caused him to believe his coworkers were spreading rumors about his sexual orientation.
Miller claims he requested execution by nitrogen hypoxia in 2018, but his request was mishandled by prison staff.
U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. issued a preliminary injunction to block the state from executing Miller on Thursday by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia.
Huffaker added that the injury suffered to Miller would be “the loss of his ‘final dignity’—to choose how he will die.”
Since Huffaker previously compelled the state to admit it did not have the capacity to perform a nitrogen hypoxia execution, Miller’s future execution date is still up in the air.
The Alabama Department of Corrections told the judge last week that Alabama “has completed many of the preparations necessary for conducting executions by nitrogen hypoxia” but is currently incapable of carrying it out.
Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed execution method in which death is caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen. The process does not have a structured protocol, but it would involve replacing breathed oxygen with nitrogen, causing the individual to drift to sleep and pass away. Some have argued that the method would be more humane, while others have likened it to human experimentation.
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