Alabama inmate endured ‘torture’ during botched execution, lawyers say

An Alabama inmate said prison staff poked him with needles for more than an hour as they tried to find a vein during a miscarriage lethal injection last month. At one point he was left hanging vertically from a wardrobe before state officials made the decision to call off the execution.

Lawyers for 57-year-old Alan Eugene Miller wrote about his experience during the Sept. 22 execution attempt in Alabama in a court filing last week. Miller’s lawyers are trying to block the state from attempting a second lethal injection.

Two men in scrubs used needles to repeatedly probe Miller’s arms, legs, feet and hands, using a cell phone flashlight to aid in their search for a vein, according to the Oct. 6 court filing. The lawyers called Miller the “only living survivor of execution in the United States” and said Alabama subjected Miller to “exactly the unnecessary and unintended pain that the Eighth Amendment was intended to prohibit.”

Death penalty Alabama
Officials escort murder suspect Alan Eugene Miller away from the prison in Pelham, Ala., on August 5, 1999.

Dave Martin / AP

Alabama asked the state Supreme Court to set a new execution date for Miller, saying the execution was canceled only because of a timing problem, as the state faced a midnight deadline to begin the lethal injection.

“Despite this botched execution, the physical and mental torture it inflicted on Mr. Miller, and the fact that the defendants have now failed three fatal injection executions in just four years, the defendants relentlessly seek to execute Mr. Miller again – possibly by lethal injection. ” Miller’s lawyers wrote, citing one execution that was called off and another that took three hours to begin.

“So what, according to the defendants, is constitutional time to spend stabbing someone with needles in an attempt to kill them?” his lawyers wrote.

The 351-pound inmate testified at an earlier hearing that medics always have trouble accessing his veins, and that’s why he wanted to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia, a newly approved execution method the state has yet to try.

Miller said he was led into the execution chamber at 10 p.m., about an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted an injunction blocking the death penalty, and he was arraigned at about 10:15 p.m.

After the two men used needles to probe various parts of his body for a vein, also using a phone flashlight to help him, Miller told the men, “he could feel that they didn’t have access to his veins, but they were probably stabbing around his veins.” Later, a third man began stroking his neck in an apparent attempt to search for a vein.

The three men stopped the search and left the room after a loud knock on the death chamber window was heard from the state’s observation room, according to the court filing. A correctional officer then raised the garni to a vertical position. Miller said the wall clock read 11:40 p.m. and he estimated he hung there for about 20 minutes before he was let down and told his execution was canceled for the evening.

“Mr. Miller felt nauseous, disoriented, confused and afraid that he was going to be killed and was deeply disturbed by the sight of government officials silently watching him from the observation room while hanging vertically from the wardrobe. was oozing from some of Mr. Miller’s wounds,” the motion said.

Miller was sentenced to death after being convicted of a 1999 workplace rampage in which he killed Terry Jarvis, Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancey.

“Due to the lateness of the hour, the Alabama Department of Corrections was limited in the number of attempts to obtain IV access that it could make. ADOC decided to cease its attempts to obtain IV access at approximately 11:30 p.m. , resulting in the expiration of the court’s writ of execution,” the state attorney general wrote in the request for a new date.

This is at least the third time Alabama has acknowledged problems with vein access during a lethal injection. The state execution of July Joe Nathan James it took more than three hours to start. Alabama canceled the 2018 execution Doyle Ham since he was unable to establish an IV line.

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