A federal judge has granted an order prohibiting Alabama from executing a death row inmate by lethal injection this week after he asserted he chose to die by nitrogen hypoxia — an untested and unproven execution method Alabama officials say they’re not ready to use.
Without the injunction, the inmate, Alan Eugene Miller, would “likely suffer irreparable injury,” US District Judge Austin Huffaker Jr. wrote in his order, “because he will be deprived of the ability to die by the method he chose and instead will be forced to die by a method he sought to avoid and which he asserts will be painful.”
As a result, the state cannot execute Miller “by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia until further order from the court.”
The case has put a spotlight on nitrogen hypoxia, which experts and critics say has yet to be proven humane or effective and could never be ethically tested, despite proponents’ claims it could be simpler, easier and safer than lethal injection. Inmates like Miller, however, are making an “uninformed choice,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, because the method has never been used.