A man sentenced to death for a triple murder could be the first person to be killed by nitrogen. The offender’s lawyers do not want the new method of execution to be tested on their client.
Sentenced to death for triple murder in 1999, Alan Eugen Miller was due to receive a lethal injection on September 22. However, the method of execution may change. James Houts, Alabama Assistant Attorney General, told US District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. that it was “very likely” that a new method would be used to execute Miller, CBS News reported. It is about hypoxia with nitrogen, which is supposed to cause death by replacing oxygen for breathing with nitrogen.
The information about the possibility of using the new method was disclosed during a court hearing. It concerned Miller’s claim that prison staff had lost his papers a few years ago. The convict was to demand nitrogen in them as a method of execution instead of a lethal injection.
Condemned “did not want to be stabbed with a needle”
Miller testified that the form in which he chose the method of execution had been returned on the day it was distributed to the prisoners by a prison employee. When asked why he chose to be hypoxic with nitrogen, he replied, “I didn’t want to be stabbed with a needle.” He admitted in court that he did not like needles due to painful blood sampling attempts. He added that the hypoxia by nitrogen had associated him with the nitrous oxide used in dentists’ offices and considered it a “better option” than an injection.
Miller’s lawyer, Mara Klebaner, said the offender’s lawyers needed more information about the execution through hypoxia. Without it, he will not agree to such a solution. As she admitted, she does not want an unproven method of execution to be tested on her client.
According to Alabama’s deputy attorney general, the final decision on whether to use the new method rests with Prison Commissioner John Hamm, and a litigation over a change in execution “is likely.”
Alan Eugen Miller was sentenced to death in connection with a shooting he caused at his workplace. Three people died there. At that time, he was working as a driver of a delivery truck. The man was said to be delusional and according to testimony “he believed that the victims spread rumors about him, including that he was gay”. According to the psychiatrist involved in the trial, Miller suffered from a severe mental illness, but his condition was not bad enough to be considered insane.
Behind the scenes of introducing a new method of execution
Alabama in 2018 became the third state, after Oklahoma and Mississippi, to allow the use of nitrogen for the execution of prisoners. Nitrogen is an essential component of the air we breathe. The previously unproven method of execution is to change the air composition to 100 percent. nitrogen, which would cause fainting and then death from lack of oxygen. Subsequent states have begun to propose nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative method of enforcement due to the difficulty of obtaining lethal doses of injectable drugs and ongoing legal disputes over their humanity. Proponents of the new method theorized that nitrogen hypoxia would be a “simpler and more humane” way to execute executions.
Critics of the new method say it is human experimentation. Robert Dunham, executive director of the US Center for Information on the Death Penalties, referred to the arguments about the “humaneity” of hypoxia, recalling that death in the electric chair was similarly labeled in the past. The American Veterinary Society’s euthanasia guidelines state that hypoxia by inert gases (which include nitrogen) is acceptable – under certain conditions – for euthanasia of chickens, turkeys, and pigs, but is not recommended for, for example, rats.
Main photo source: Shutterstock