A federal judge Friday ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to allow attorneys for death row inmate Alan Eugene Miller to assess any injuries he may have sustained from a failed execution Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Austin Huffaker also ordered DOC to preserve physical evidence from the execution attempt and communications among DOC staff on Thursday evening.
Miller's attorneys made the request for visitation in a motion filed Friday morning.
"Defendants have publicly admitted they had difficulty accessing his veins during the process, and the execution was called off," the motion said. "Mr. Miller has injuries from the attempted execution that can and should be photographed and/or filmed."
DOC conducts executions through lethal injection, which requires staff to find veins to insert IV lines. In 2018, staff prodded death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm's legs and groin for two-and-a-half hours before he began bleeding on the gurney to which he was strapped. Hamm's execution was canceled.
Executions in Alabama:A history of execution methods in Alabama, and the controversies around them
The Atlantic reported in August that an autopsy of Joe Nathan James Jr., executed in July, showed major wounds consistent with an attempt to establish an IV line. One mark appeared to indicate that staff tried to cut open James' arm to expose a vein, the magazine reported.
Miller, 57, was sentenced to death for the 1999 workplace shootings of Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis. Miller maintained that he filled out a form in 2018 saying he wanted to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia, a method of execution under development by the state, but that the state lost the form. Other death row inmates later described the process to chose death by nitrogen hypoxia as rushed and chaotic.
Huffaker ruled earlier this week that Miller's testimony appeared credible and ordered the Department of Corrections not to execute Miller by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia. The Alabama Attorney General's Office appealed, accusing Miller of attempting to delay his execution. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the stay Thursday afternoon, but the U.S. Supreme Court overruled that decision in a 5-4 opinion Thursday evening, allowing Miller to be executed by lethal injection. Neither the majority nor the minority issued an opinion.
Nitrogen hypoxia execution:'Bloodless, but it won't be simple'
Reporters taken to the death chamber at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore after the Supreme Court's ruling were suddenly turned around later in the evening and returned to the media center. DOC Commissioner John Hamm later told reporters that staff were unable to find veins to insert the needle, and felt they could not do so before Miller's death warrant expired at midnight.
"Due to the time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned's veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the deadline," Hamm said.
Huffaker's Friday order requires DOC to allow Miller's attorneys to see him between 4 and 6 p.m. on Friday, and from 7 to 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The judge also ordered DOC to preserve "notes, emails, texts, and used medical supplies such as syringes, swabs, scalpels, and IV-lines."
The order also directs DOC personnel to "preserve all notes, emails, and texts concerning the execution, including those made and/or exchanged before (starting at 6 pm, September 22, 2022), during, and after the attempted execution."
The Montgomery Advertiser last month filed an open records request for communications within DOC and between DOC and the Attorney General's office during James' execution on July 28. The DOC rejected the records request, saying it considered those records exempt from public disclosure laws.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Attorneys to visit Alan Miller after failed execution attempt