The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Alabama could kill a death row prisoner by lethal injection despite his assertion that the state had lost his request to be killed by nitrogen hypoxia, a method of suffocation.
The prisoner, Alan Eugene Miller, who was convicted of murdering three men in 1999, was set to die after the Supreme Court said, in a 5-4 order without explanation, that his execution should not be blocked. Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court’s three liberal members in dissent, saying the legal battle over Mr. Miller’s execution method should be allowed to play out.
For several hours on Thursday night, it appeared that Mr. Miller, 57, would be executed by lethal injection, the method he had sought to avoid. But early on Friday morning, local journalists reported that the prison commissioner said the state had not been able to kill Mr. Miller before its midnight deadline.
halted the execution after the head of Alabama’s prisons said the state would not be ready to execute Mr. Miller by nitrogen hypoxia on Thursday. The judge ruled that it was quite likely that Mr. Miller had filled out the form and that prison officials, who had no formal system of recording prisoners’ responses, had misplaced it. An appellate court upheld that decision on Thursday, but it was overturned later that night by the Supreme Court.
Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that collects data on executions, said the Supreme Court had eroded its credibility by saying the execution could take place.
ruled this month that the method was unconstitutional. In Oklahoma, after a series of botched lethal injections, the state’s attorney general said in 2018 that it would pursue the use of nitrogen gas in executions; but it has used only lethal injection since, killing five prisoners with the method since last year.