Condemned man’s attorneys seek details on botched execution attempt

Published 6:05 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

Attorneys for an Alabama inmate, who had his lethal injection called off because of intravenous line difficulties, said they want to see information, such as the names and qualifications of execution team members, to understand what went awry.

Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. held a hearing Wednesday on the request for information regarding the attempted execution of Alan Miller in September.

“We’re trying to understand what went wrong and why,” Mara Klebaner, an attorney representing Miller, told the judge. The Alabama attorney general’s office has asked to keep some of the information secret, or under a protective seal, citing security concerns.

Miller had his lethal injection aborted in September after officials tried for more than an hour to connect an intravenous line. Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm told reporters the execution was halted because “accessing the veins was taking a little bit longer than we anticipated” and the state did not have sufficient time to get the execution underway by a midnight deadline. The state is now seeking a second execution date for Miller. Miller’s attorneys are trying to block the state from attempting a second lethal injection.

Huffaker did not issue an immediate ruling but said he was inclined to require the state to turn over the names to Miller’s lawyers. A state attorney argued it was a security risk because of the possibility the names might be leaked. She suggested the people only be identified only by pseudonyms as they are questioned by Miller’s attorneys.

“There is a genuine safety concern for these individuals,” Assistant Attorney General Audrey Jordan said.

Huffaker said pseudonyms would make it difficult for Miller’s attorneys to research their backgrounds or determine whether the people were being truthful during depositions. He agreed with the state that the names didn’t need to be shared with Miller, noting he had little ability to punish the death row inmate if he violated a confidentiality order.

Huffaker also appeared skeptical of a statement in a court filing by the attorney general’s office claiming the execution hadn’t gotten underway. Deputy Attorney General James Houts said it was the state’s contention that the execution doesn’t get underway until the death warrant is read in the execution chamber and the drugs begin flowing. Klebaner said that claim “defies reality.”

Klebaner said they have gotten little substantive information from the state, while Houts said they are working as quickly as they can. Huffaker cautioned the state to act in good faith with the information requests.

“If I see stonewalling… we are going to be back here having a talk,” Huffaker told attorneys for the state.