‘Botched execution’ lasted 90 minutes as Alabama inmate survived ‘torture,’ lawsuit says

An Alabama inmate on death row survived a “botched execution” lasting 90 minutes as prison workers unsuccessfully searched for his veins, according to a federal lawsuit.

In late September, a knock on the window bordering the execution chamber ended the lethal injection attempt before Alan Miller was left alone for 20 minutes hanging vertically on a gurney with needle puncture wounds — wondering if he was to die that day, court documents state.

The event was described as “torture” after the US Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed.

Now attorneys representing Miller say he is “the only living execution survivor in the United States.”

Miller has awaited his execution after a judge sentenced him to death after two workplace shootings in 1999 that left three men dead in Alabama, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

A month before his execution date, Miller filed a complaint against John Q. Hamm, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, Terry Raybon, the warden of Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore and state Attorney General Steve Marshall on Aug. 22, alleging he faced “constitutionally inadequate treatment” in prison, court records show.

Since the “botched execution,” Miller filed a new complaint on Oct. 6 to include claims related to his failed lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility after Hamm, Raybon and Marshall sought to have his lawsuit dismissed, according to court filings.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office declined McClatchy News’ request for comment on Miller’s lawsuit on Oct. 11. Attorneys from the office are representing Hamm, Raybon and Marshall. McClatchy News contacted Miller’s attorneys for comment on Oct. 11 and was awaiting a response.

Miller’s new complaint says officials are rushing to have him executed by lethal injection again — even though he initially opted for a different execution method — to end his lawsuit and avoid facing his claims. On Oct. 4, the defendants asked the state Supreme Court for permission to execute Miller “as soon as possible.”

“Defendants are well aware that if they kill Mr. Miller, this litigation—and all judicial scrutiny of their constitutional violations against Mr. Miller — becomes moot,” the new complaint states.

The case

In 2018, Miller selected nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method on an election form, the lawsuit says.

With this method, an inmate inhales nitrogen, eventually resulting in asphyxiation and death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

However, Miller’s lawsuit accuses officials of losing his nitrogen hypoxia election form, as well as other inmates’ election forms. State officials claimed there was no record of Miller’s form, according to the complaint, and it was ultimately decided that Miller was to be executed by lethal injection.

Previously, medical professionals have had trouble finding Miller’s veins, and the lawsuit accuses officials of having this knowledge and knowing “Miller would suffer greatly from their attempts to set an IV in his veins.”

On Sept. 1, Miller submitted a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent him from being executed by a method other than nitrogen hypoxia, the complaint says.

On Sept. 22, Hamm, Raybon and Marshall filed an emergency application with the US Supreme Court seeking to have Miller’s preliminary injunction vacated, according to the complaint. Hours later, the Supreme Court granted the defendants’ request, allowing for Miller’s execution to proceed by lethal injection that evening.

“It is difficult to overstate the mental — and eventually physical — anguish that Mr. Miller experienced on the night of September 22 into the early morning hours of September 23,” the complaint states.

The day of Sept. 22, Miller visited his family before learning he was to be executed that night due to the Supreme Court’s decision, according to the lawsuit. Then, he said his final goodbyes to his attorneys.

After Miller laid down and officials strapped him to the execution gurney, he was repeatedly slapped as prison workers tried to find his veins and made puncture wounds in a process described as “painful and traumatic,” according to the complaint.

Miller’s upper body was punctured in a number of places as he experienced excruciating pain before they tried puncturing his foot, where he says they hit a nerve, creating more pain, the complaint states.

After roughly 90 minutes, the process was abandoned entirely and Miller was left alone hanging on the gurney, according to the lawsuit.

“Mr. Miller felt nauseous, disoriented, confused, and fearful about whether he was about to be killed, and was deeply disturbed by his view of state employees silently staring at him from the observation room while he was hanging vertically from the gurney,” the complaint states . “Blood was leaking from some of Mr. Miller’s wounds.”

Eventually, Miller heard a prison worker tell him “your execution has been postponed” and he was sent back to his death row cell on Sept. 23 with no explanation, according to the complaint.

Miller’s lawsuit argues he has suffered post-traumatic stress and physical pain since the “botched execution.”

“Defendants’ insistence on continuing to execute Mr. Miller via lethal injection can only be considered intent to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on him,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit seeks to prevent Miller’s execution by lethal injection and to recover monetary damages for him in connection with his failed execution, according to the complaint.

Atmore is about 120 miles southwest of Montgomery near the Alabama-Florida border.

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