MONTGOMERY, Ala (AP) — An Alabama inmate said prison staff pricked him with needles for more than an hour as they tried to find a vein during an abortive lethal injection last month. last. At one point, they left him hanging vertically on a stretcher before state officials made the decision to call off the execution.
Lawyers for Alan Eugene Miller, 57, recounted his experience during the September 22 execution attempt in Alabama in a filing last week. Miller’s lawyers are trying to stop the state from attempting a second lethal injection.
Two men in scrubs used needles to repeatedly probe Miller’s arms, legs, feet and hands, at one point using a cellphone flashlight to help them search for a vein, according to the October 6 court filing. The attorneys called Miller “the only execution survivor living in the United States” and said Alabama subjected Miller “to precisely the unnecessary and wanton infliction of suffering which the Eighth Amendment was intended to prohibit.”
Alabama has asked the state Supreme Court to set a new execution date for Miller, saying the execution was only canceled due to a timing issue, with the state facing at a midnight deadline to initiate the lethal injection.
“Despite this failed execution, the physical and mental torture it inflicted on Mr. Miller, and the fact that the defendants have now botched three executions by lethal injection in just four years, the defendants relentlessly seek to execute Mr. Miller – presumably by lethal injection,” Miller’s attorneys wrote, referring to an execution that was called off and another that took three hours to start.
“What then, in the opinion of the defendants, is the constitutional time to spend stabbing someone with needles for the purpose of killing them?” his lawyers wrote.
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The 351-pound (159-kilogram) inmate testified at an earlier hearing that medical personnel were still having trouble accessing his veins, and that’s why he wanted to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia, a method of newly approved execution that the state has yet to try.
Miller said he was taken to the execution chamber at 10 p.m., about an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted an injunction that blocked the death injunction, and he was tied to the stretcher around 10:15 p.m.
After the pair used needles to probe various parts of his body for a vein, also using a phone flashlight, Miller told the men, “he could feel they weren’t accessing not at his veins, but rather that they were stabbing around his veins”. Later, a third man then began slapping his neck in an apparent attempt to search for a vein.
The three men in work clothes stopped their probing and left the room after there was a loud banging on the window of the death chamber from the state observation room, according to the file of the court. A prison officer then lifted the stretcher to an upright position. Miller said the wall clock read 11:40 p.m. and he estimated he was there for about 20 minutes before he was let down and told his execution had been called off for the evening.
“Mr. Miller felt nauseous, disoriented, confused and fearful as to whether he was about to be killed, and was deeply disturbed by his vision of state employees silently watching him from the observation room while that he was hanging vertically from the stretcher. Blood was flowing from some of Mr. Miller’s wounds,” the motion read.
Miller was sentenced to death after being convicted of a 1999 workplace rampage in which he killed Terry Jarvis, Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy.
“Due to the late hour, the Alabama Department of Corrections was limited in the number of intravenous access attempts it could make. ADOC made the decision to halt its efforts to obtain a intravenous access at approximately 11:30 p.m., causing the court’s enforcement warrant to expire,” the state attorney general’s office wrote in the request for a new date.
This is at least the third time that Alabama has recognized venous access problems during a lethal injection. The state execution of Joe Nathan James in July took more than three hours to start. Alabama overturned Doyle Hamm’s execution in 2018 after he was unable to establish an IV line.
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