‘Veins could not be accessed’: Alabama halts man’s execution for time, medical concerns

ATMORE, Ala. – Before the clock struck midnight on Thursday, Alabama officials halted the lethal injection of a man convicted of a fatal workplace shooting in 1999 due to time concerns and problems accessing the inmate’s veins.

At about 11:30 p.m., state officials called off the scheduled execution of Alan Eugene Miller after authorities determined they could not complete the execution before a midnight deadline, Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said. 

Early Friday morning, Hamm told the USA TODAY Network that prison staff could not establish intravenous access to deliver Miller’s lethal injection, so the execution was postponed.

Miller’s death sentence was scheduled to take place at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in southwest Alabama near Altmore, some 50 miles from Mobile.

After it was halted, Miller was returned to his cell, Hamm said. He did not provide further details as to Miller’s condition.

“Due to the time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the deadline,” said Hamm.

The 57-year-old death row inmate was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing three people in a 1999 workplace rampage.

Officials escort murder suspect Alan Eugene Miller of Billingsley, Ala., away from the Pelham City Jail on Thursday. Miller has been charged with three counts of murder in the slayings of three people at two separate businesses in Pelham, Ala. Miller allegedly killed two co-workers at Ferguson Enterprises Inc., before shooting a third person at a company where he used to work. AP photo

A last minute reprieve

The last-minute reprieve came nearly three hours after a divided U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to begin.

In a 5-4 decision, justices lifted an injunction issued by a federal judge and left in place by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that blocked Miller’s execution from going forward.

Miller’s defense attorneys said the state lost the paperwork requesting his execution be carried out using nitrogen hypoxia, a method legally available to him but never before used in the United States.

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Alan Eugene Miller, sentenced for murder July 31, 2000

Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method in 2018.

At that time, state law gave inmates a brief window to designate it as their execution method. Miller testified that he turned in paperwork four years ago selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method, putting the documents in a slot in his cell door at the Holman Correctional Facility for a prison worker to collect.

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Miller was sentenced to death for killing three men in two workplace shootings in Shelby County just south of Birmingham.

An employee entering Ferguson Enterprises in Pelham saw Miller exit the building on Aug. 5, 1999, before finding Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy dead inside.

Miller then drove to nearby Post Airgas, where he previously worked, and killed employee Terry Jarvis. The jury deliberated for 20 minutes before finding Miller guilty and recommended the death penalty, which a judge approved.

Contributing: The Associated Press and Montgomery Advertiser reporters Evan Mealins and Brian Lyman.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund. Contact Evan Mealins at emealins@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanMealins.