Alabama approves second nitrogen hypoxia execution

The Alabama Supreme Court has authorized the nitrogen hypoxia execution of Alan Eugene Miller, setting the stage for the state to have at least four executions this year.

Miller's execution would be the second carried out using nitrogen gas, the Alabama Attorney General’s office says. Miller, now 59, was convicted of killing three people during a pair of 1999 workplace shootings in suburban Birmingham. He was living in Autauga County at the time.

This Miller’s second date with the executioner. He was set to die by lethal injection in September of 2022, but staff could not gain access to his veins for the IV lines before his death warrant expired. Miller said that during the aborted 2022 lethal injection attempt, prison staff poked him with needles for over an hour as they tried to find a vein and at one point left him hanging vertically as he lay strapped to a gurney, court records show.

The attorney general’s office decides which condemned inmate is to be executed. The supreme court then authorizes the execution and Gov. Kay Ivey sets the execution date.

Alan Eugene Miller, sentenced for murder July 31, 2000
Alan Eugene Miller, sentenced for murder July 31, 2000

More: Alabama executions through the years: Facts, figures and failures

"The State of Alabama is prepared to carry out the execution of Miller's sentence by means of nitrogen hypoxia," the attorney general's office wrote, adding that Miller has been on death row since 2000 and that it is time to carry out his sentence.

When the state originally tried to kill Miller in 2022, death warrants in Alabama were in effect for 24 hours. They now remain in effect for 30 hours.

Miller has filled a federal lawsuit seeking to bar the use of nitrogen hypoxia as the method of execution with the suit claiming it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is barred by the U.S. Constition.

Miller, a delivery truck driver, was convicted in the fatal workplace shootings of Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis. Prosecutors said Miller killed Holdbrooks and Yancy at one business and then drove to another location to shoot Jarvis. Each man was shot multiple times.

Testimony indicated Miller believed the men were spreading rumors about him. Jurors convicted Miller after 20 minutes of deliberation and then recommended a death sentence, which a judge imposed.

With nitrogen hypoxia, the condemned breathes pure nitrogen through a mask. The nitrogen displaces the oxygen in the lungs.

On Jan. 25, Kenneth Eugene Smith became the first person in the nation executed using the method. That execution was carried out in the death chamber at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. In the weeks before the execution, the attorney general’s office wrote in court documents that the inmate would lose consciousness in a matter of “seconds” and die in a matter of minutes.

More: Nitrogen gas execution: Kenneth Smith convulses for four minutes in Alabama death chamber

Smith writhed and shook on the gurney for some four minutes before appearing to lose consciousness. His convulsions shook the gurney several times. He appeared to gasp for air and writhe for about two minutes more after he appeared to lose consciousness before he apparently stopped breathing.

The morning after Smith’s execution Attorney General Steve Marshall described the execution as “textbook” and said the state was ready to carry out more nitrogen hypoxia executions.

Two other inmates have had their execution dates set.

Jamie Ray Mills is set to be executed sometime during the 30-hour time period of from midnight May 30 to 6 a.m. May 31.

Mills was convicted of three counts of capital murder in August 2007 and the jury recommended the death penalty by a 11-1 vote. The trial judge took the jury’s recommendation and sentence Mills to death. In June 2004 Mills bludgeoned Floyd Hill, 87, to death while stealing items from Hill’s storage shed, court records show. Mills also beat Hill’s wife, Vera, 72, during the crime. She died days later in the hospital.

Keith Edmund Gavin is set to be executed during the 30 hour period of midnight July 18 to 6 a.m. July 19.

Gavin, 63, was sentenced to capital murder for the March 1998 murder of William Clayton Jr. a driver for a courier company. Clayton had gotten off work and drove his van to a bank in Centre, in Cherokee County, to withdraw cash to take his wife to dinner, state and federal court records show. Cherokee County is in northeast Alabama. Gavin went up to the van and shot Clayton, at least two times, then drove off in the van.

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama approves second nitrogen hypoxia execution