In a 2-1 decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state's request to lift a recent injunction barring the state from carrying out the planned execution of Alan Miller.
A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Alabama’s bid to proceed with the scheduled evening execution of an inmate who claims the state lost his paperwork selecting an alternative to lethal injection.
In a 2-1 decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s request to lift a recent injunction barring the state from carrying out the planned execution of Alan Miller. The state appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to go ahead with its plan Thursday night.
Miller, 57, was convicted of killing three people in a 1999 workplace rampage, drawing the death sentence. A judge blocked the execution plan earlier this week.
Miller testified that he had turned in paperwork four years ago selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method, putting it in a slot in his cell door at the Holman Correctional Facility for a prison worker to collect. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state from killing Miller by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia.
In refusing to lift Huffaker’s injunction, the appeals court on Thursday said it is “substantially likely” that Miller “submitted a timely election form even though the State says that it does not have any physical record of a form.”
“Prison officials at Holman chose not to keep a log or list of those inmates who submitted an election form choosing nitrogen hypoxia,” the court said, finding that the state also did not demonstrate that it would “suffer irreparable harm” if the execution did not take place Thursday.
The Alabama attorney general’s office quickly appealed the ruling, writing that Miller’s claim that the state lost the selection form Miller returned is not reason enough to halt the execution.
The state wrote Miller’s claim that the state was negligent and “misplaced his method-of-election form” is “categorically insufficient to rise to the level of a constitutional deprivation.”
The state also said that by blocking the execution, the lower courts had “discounted the interests of the state and of Miller’s victims and their families to zero.”
The death warrant for the execution was set to expire at midnight, so the state would need the injunction lifted by then to let the execution proceed. Alabama requested that justices rule by 8 p.m.
The state did not explain the reason for the 8 p.m. timing request, but the request came after the July execution of inmate Joe Nathan James was delayed for about three hours. The prison system said there were difficulties establishing an intravenous line, but did not specify how long it took. Advocacy groups have alleged that execution was botched.
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