The Alabama Deputy Attorney General told a federal judge Monday that the state could “very likely” carry out a never-before-used execution method called nitrogen hypoxia on a death row inmate later this month.
The Birmingham News reports Deputy A.G. James Houts said during a hearing in his statement to U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. that the method could be available for the execution of Alan Eugene Miller, 57, who is currently scheduled on Sept. 22 for lethal injection at Holman Prison.
Authorities convicted Miller of capital murder and sentenced him to death after killing three men during a shooting rampage at two separate businesses in Shelby County in August 1999.
The Associated Press reports that evidence showed Miller shot and killed Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy at one business and then drove to another location, where he killed Terry Jarvis. Testimony detailed that Miller believed the men spread rumors about him, including that he lived a homosexual lifestyle.
In 2018, Alabama lawmakers passed a bill that authorized execution by nitrogen hypoxia, which replaces oxygen with nitrogen resulting in death. Inmates at the time were given a timeframe to choose whether or not they wanted the alternative method to lethal injection, which has been the state’s protocol for approximately 20 years. Lawmakers approved the bill after it became increasingly difficult to obtain the deadly substances used in the procedure.
However, Miller argues authorities possibly mishandled his request form, which has sparked confusion in the courtroom about whether or not he would receive the new method.
Miller said he remembers receiving a form to choose the execution method because he thought it was like receiving nitrous oxide used by dentists.
“I didn’t want to be stabbed with needles and stuff,” Miller said, according to The Birmingham News. “I didn’t want to be executed at all, but I didn’t want to be stabbed with needles.”
He said he returned the form with the new method selected to the prison staff.
“I yelled back, ‘I want it notarized and copied,’” Miller said.
The 57-year-old inmate argued that authorities never returned a copy and alleged prison staff lost his paperwork.
Houts said there was no evidence that Miller had submitted such paperwork with the request.
Houts said although the protocol has not been finalized, it exists and stated the final decision would be left up to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm.
Mara Klebaner, the death row inmate’s lawyer, said that Hout’s office asked if Miller would renounce his claims regarding the execution-style while simultaneously seeking out a mask to fit Miller for his death sentence.
Kelbaner also said Miller’s legal team would need more information about the nitrogen hypoxia before agreeing to allow the state to test it out on Miller.
Nitrogen hypoxia has been approved in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.
The State of Alabama has executed 72 people on death row since 1976, one of the highest per capita execution rates in the nation.