Alabama, the first state to use nitrogen gas for execution, will carry out its next death sentence using lethal injection

After grabbing headlines as the first state in the nation to utilize nitrogen gas as an execution method for those on death row, Alabama has now set a date to carry out its next execution with a different method.

Gov. Kay Ivey has set the date for the execution of Jamie Mills — a man convicted and sentenced to death for the 2004 murder of a couple during a robbery — for anytime between the beginning of May 30 to 6 a.m. on May 31. The state will utilize lethal injection as the means of execution.

Earlier this year, Alabama carried out the execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith by delivering nitrogen gas through a respirator mask placed over his nose and mouth, causing him to die from lack of oxygen. It was the first attempt to use a new execution method since lethal injection was first used in 1982, according to The Associated Press.

Supporters argued it is a humane method to carry out an execution, and it provided a fix to troubles many states have had with lethal injection in trying to obtain the cocktail of substances used to stop a person’s heart. In Alabama, Smith’s execution by nitrogen gas came after his planned execution in 2022 was called off because executioners could not connect an IV.

But critics quickly arose, arguing nitrogen gas was “a human experiment that officials botched miserably,” and citing Smith’s writhing on the gurney as the gas was administered and oxygen was deprived. An Alabama death row inmate filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the method.

After Smith’s execution, Alabama said nitrogen gas would remain an option, but that lethal injection would also remain in use and it would be up to those on death row whether they wanted to die by nitrogen gas or lethal injection. The Associated Press reported that more than 40 people on the state’s death row opted for nitrogen.

Mills was convicted of capital murder in the killing of Floyd and Vera Hill in 2004. The prosecution alleged that Mills and his wife went to the couple’s home where they beat the Hills and stole cash and medications. Vera Hill did not succumb to her injuries until 12 weeks after the attack, according to The Associated Press.

Mills’ attorneys asked the Alabama Supreme Court to deny the execution date request, citing their ongoing claims of prosecutorial misconduct, which alleges prosecutors did not reveal that they had entered into a plea with Mills’ wife sparing her from a possible death sentence. She was the key witness in her husband’s trial.

However, the Alabama Supreme Court authorized Mills’ execution no less than 30 days from March 20, the date of its order. Ivey selected a time frame of May 30 at 12 a.m. until May 31 at 6 a.m. for the execution, according to a letter to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm instructing him to move forward with Mills’ death sentence.

“Although I have no current plans to grant clemency in this case, I retain my authority under the Constitution of the State of Alabama to grant reprieve or commutation, if necessary, at any time before the execution is carried out,” Ivey wrote in the letter, as is customary.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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