The Daily Telegraph

Nitrogen will be used in US execution for the first time


ALABAMA is preparing to carry out the execution of a triple killer by an untried method using nitrogen gas.

Next week the state is planning to administer the gas, which causes loss of consciousn­ess and death when breathed in, to Alan Eugene Miller, a delivery truck driver, who was convicted of the 1999 workplace shootings of Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis.

Prosecutor­s said that Miller killed Holdbrooks and Yancy at one business and then drove to another location to shoot Jarvis. Each man was shot several times.

Nitrogen hypoxia has been authorised for executions by Alabama and two other states but is yet to be used. The nitrogen could either be supplied via a medical-grade oxygen tent placed around the head or a face mask similar to those used by firefighte­rs. Offenders would lose consciousn­ess about 15 seconds after the switch from oxygen to nitrogen was made.

James Houts, a deputy state attorney general in Alabama, told US District Judge Austin Huffaker Jr that it was “very likely” the method would be available for the execution of Miller, due to take place on Sept 22, if the judge blocks the use of lethal injection.

Lethal injection is Alabama’s primary execution method, but in 2018 it approved nitrogen hypoxia as an alternativ­e amid mounting disquiet over lethal injections.

Miller had requested a preliminar­y injunction to block his execution by injection and it was during that hearing that it was disclosed nitrogen hypoxia could be used.

Lawmakers theorised that death by nitrogen hypoxia could be a simpler and more humane method of execution, but critics have likened the untested method to human experiment­ation.

Wearing a maroon shirt and with his hands shackled in front of him, Miller testified that he returned a state form confirming nitrogen hypoxia was his preferred method of execution on the same day it was given to him.

He added that he disliked needles because he had experience­d pain when having blood drawn for tests. He said nitrogen gas sounded like the nitrous oxide gas used at dentist surgeries, and that it seemed a better option than lethal injection.

“I did not want to be stabbed with a needle,” he said.

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