Complaint to the UN on behalf of Mr. Alan Eugene Miller
Professor Jon Yorke collaborated to provide information for a death penalty case to the United Nations, with Professor Joel Zivot, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and Professor Deborah Denno, Arthur A. McGivney Professor of Law at Fordham University Law School, New York.
Professors Yorke, Zivot, and Denno submitted a Complaint on behalf of Mr. Alan Eugene Miller, under sentence of death in Alabama to Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and Dr. Alice Jill Edwards, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Complaint presented the medical evidence Professor Zivot found in his autopsy of Mr. Joe Nathan James, who was executed through lethal injection by Alabama on 28 July 2022. The execution process took 3 hours to complete, and Mr. James had been subjected to significant pain due to a ‘cut-down’ procedure in which his arm was sliced open for cannulation so that the lethal substances could be injected into him. During the evaluation of Mr. James’ lungs, Professor Zivot found evidence of pulmonary edema fluid indicating that he had experienced the traumatic sensation of suffocation during his execution.
On the basis of the medical evidence, Professor Denno presented the US constitutional law and detailed how the state execution protocol does not provide adequate protection of the rights of the condemned inmate. Therefore, the state and federal capital judicial process is unable to provide adequate safeguards against Alabama inflicting torture and inhuman punishment.
Considering the international human rights standards in this case, Professor Yorke identified how Alabama has failed to adequately review its lethal injection protocol to ensure that the punishment will be administered in a humane way that respects human dignity and protects against torture.
Consequently, the Complaint to the UN Special Rapporteurs argued that there is an intolerable risk that Mr. Alan Eugene Miller will receive torture and an inhuman form of punishment during his execution scheduled for 22 September 2022.
The Complaint maintained that it would be appropriate under international human rights law for the execution of Mr. Miller to be suspended until Alabama is able to adequately review its execution protocol.