ATMORE, Ala. (WIAT) — The U.S. Supreme Court has silently cleared the way for an Alabama execution. The State of Alabama is preparing to execute Alan Eugene Miller for the 1999 murders of Christopher Yancy, Lee Holdbrooks and Terry Jarvis later tonight.
CBS 42 will provide live updates below from Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, where the state’s death row is located. Miller’s execution by lethal injection had been blocked by a federal court injunction earlier this week, but lawyers for the state successfully appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which provided no written reasons for its decision to allow the execution to move forward.
The most recent updates will appear at the top of the page.
10:00 p.m. — Members of the press who will witness the execution of Alan Miller are still gathered at a media center near Holman prison awaiting transport to the facility by corrections officials.
9:24 p.m. — A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections said that the state attorney general’s office said “it’s a go.” We expect the execution of Alan Miller to proceed shortly.
9:11 p.m. — The U.S. Supreme Court has lifted a lower court order that prevented the execution of Alan Eugene Miller. That will likely clear the way for Alabama to lethally inject Miller later tonight. A prison spokesperson said they have not yet heard from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office about the Supreme Court’s decision.
8:15 p.m. — Lawyers for Alan Miller have filed a response to Alabama’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. It argues the nation’s highest court shouldn’t vacate a lower court’s order preventing Miller’s execution. “What is the emergency? The State of Alabama wants to proceed…tonight,” the lawyers wrote. “Mr. Miller is not going anywhere, and neither is the Alabama Department of Corrections.”
7:04 p.m. — Alabama officials had asked that the U.S. Supreme Court rule by 7 p.m. on whether to allow the execution of Alan Miller to move forward. So far, the nation’s highest court has not ruled. The death warrant for Miller expires at midnight, at which point state officials would need to seek additional approval from the Alabama Supreme Court to proceed with an execution.
6:28 p.m. — Alabama prison officials have released information about Alan Miller’s activities over the last 24 hours. Yesterday he had 4 visitors and spoke on the phone with an attorney. Today he had 6 visitors, including two brothers, a sister, an uncle, a sister-in-law and an attorney. He had a final meal of meatloaf and chuckwagon steak.
Miller is exercising his right to six witnesses, according to prison officials. One of his listed witnesses is Elizabeth Bruenig, an Atlantic reporter who witnessed the independent autopsy of Joe Nathan James, whose execution earlier this year garnered nationwide criticism.
5:27 p.m. — 5 reporters are set to witness the execution of Alan Eugene Miller if the U.S. Supreme Court allows the lethal injection to move forward: one AP reporter, two print reporters, a CBS 42 reporter and a second television reporter.
4:36 p.m. — Alan Miller’s life is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. Around 4:30 p.m., the State of Alabama formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the order preventing Alan Miller’s execution by lethal injection. Alabama has asked that the Supreme Court rule by 7:00 p.m. local time. The lethal injection has originally been scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. — A federal appeals court has rejected a request from Alabama officials asking that the lethal injection of Alan Miller be allowed to proceed today. State officials have said they plan to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here outside Holman, members of the press have gathered in the media center in the event an execution moves forward. There’s no indication from the officials here in Holman’s media center that preparations for the execution have stalled in any way.
11:00 a.m. — The federal judge who issued a stay of execution in Miller’s case has denied Alabama’s request to lift that stay pending their appeal. Alabama is currently appealing the Trump-appointed judge’s order to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Eleventh Circuit allows the stay of execution to remain in place, Alabama is likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
8:00 a.m. — A federal court order staying the lethal injection of Alan Eugene Miller hasn’t stopped Alabama’s preparations for his execution, a prison spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.
Miller was convicted in the shooting death of three people in Shelby County more than two decades ago.
On Monday, just days before the scheduled execution of Alan Eugene Miller, a Trump-appointed federal judge ruled that Miller could not be put to death by lethal injection because he is “substantially likely” to prove claims that executing him by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia would violate his constitutional rights.
Still, on Wednesday, an Alabama Department of Corrections spokesperson confirmed that the agency will move forward with plans for the execution “pending any court proceedings.”
“ADOC’s role is limited to its statutory duty of carrying out executions according to lawful court order,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “ADOC will continue to plan and prepare for Thursday’s execution pending any court proceedings.”
In his 61-page decision delaying the lethal injection, Judge R. Austin Huffaker concluded it is “substantially likely” that Miller chose to die by nitrogen hypoxia during a 30-day period when Alabama allowed death row inmates to opt into the untested method of execution. Executing him by lethal injection, then, may violate his rights.
“Miller has shown, based on the evidence presented, a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his Fourteenth Amendment claims, a likelihood of irreparable injury without an injunction, and that the balance of harms weighs in his favor,” the judge wrote. “Therefore, Miller has established his entitlement to a preliminary injunction that prevents the State from executing him by any other method other than nitrogen hypoxia.”
The state has denied that Miller submitted a form choosing an execution by nitrogen hypoxia.
An execution using the method, which involves replacing oxygen needed to breathe with nitrogen gas, has never been carried out in the United States. Execution through the use of nitrogen suffocation was approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2018.
The state’s decision to continue preparations for Miller’s execution on Sept. 22 may be tied to its appeal of Judge Huffaker’s decision to a higher court, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. If that court does not intervene, state officials could appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and ask that the execution be allowed to move forward.
The nation’s highest court has demonstrated a willingness to allow executions to proceed despite significant legal challenges still at play in lower courts. In 2021, the court allowed Alabama to execute Willie B. Smith despite his claims that he was unable to understand the form that would have allowed him to opt into an execution by nitrogen hypoxia.
In that case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor echoed “serious concerns” about the process through which Alabama death row inmates were expected to opt into death by nitrogen hypoxia.
“Once a State has determined that individuals on death row should have a choice as to how the State will execute them, it should ensure that a meaningful choice is provided,” Sotomayor wrote.
Nothing in Judge Huffaker’s order would prevent the state from executing Miller by nitrogen hypoxia, his method of choice, but state officials have said they do not yet have the ability to carry out such an execution.