Inmate asks court to prevent second nitrogen gas execution in Alabama
Inmate asks court to prevent second nitrogen gas execution in Alabama

MONTGOMERY, ALA. — MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — Lawyers for an Alabama inmate asked a judge on Friday to block the country’s second planned execution by nitrogen gas, arguing that the first was a “horrific scene” that violated the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Alan Eugene Miller, who survived an attempt at lethal injection in 2022, is scheduled to be executed using the new method in Alabama on September 26. His lawyers argued that during the first nitrogen-fueled execution in January, Kenneth Smith trembled and convulsed for several minutes on a stretcher as he was executed.

“The execution was a disaster. Several eyewitnesses described a horrific scene in which Mr. Smith was writhing on the gurney and foaming at the mouth. Instead of investigating possible deficiencies in his protocol, the state shrouded it in secrecy,” his lawyers said.

Miller’s lawyers asked a federal judge for an injunction to stop the execution or at least force the state to change protocol. In Alabama, an industrial gas mask is used to force an inmate to breathe pure nitrogen, depriving him of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions.

Miller was convicted of capital crimes for killing three men in a workplace shooting in 1999. Prosecutors said Miller, a delivery truck driver, killed fellow workers Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy at a business in suburban Birmingham and then drove off to shoot his former supervisor, Terry Jarvis, at a business where Miller had previously worked.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall reiterated in January that Smith’s execution was “textbook” and said the state would seek to use nitrogen gas to carry out more death sentences. But lethal injection remains the predominant method of execution in the state.

Miller had previously argued that nitrogen gas should be his method of execution. Miller was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in 2022, but the state canceled the execution after failing to provide intravenous access to the 351-pound inmate. The state agreed to never again attempt to execute Miller by lethal injection and that any execution would be carried out by nitrogen gas. At the time, the state had not yet developed a protocol for the use of nitrogen gas.

In Friday’s court filing, Miller’s lawyers argued that the nitrogen protocol did not produce the quick death the state had promised the courts. They argued that Smith instead writhed in “several agonizing minutes of intense pain.”

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By Aurora