ADOC Executes Robert Melson

Jun 9, 2017

Death row unit at Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore, Ala.
Credit EJI

The state of Alabama put Robert Melson to death last night for killing three people during a 1994 robbery of a Gadsden fast food restaurant.

Melson was pronounced dead at 10:27 p.m. last night, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. It’s the second execution of the year in Alabama.

Melson’s attorneys had filed a flurry of last-minute appeals hoping to stay the execution. Those centered on the use of the sedative midazolam in the lethal injection process. The drug is intended to render inmates unconscious and keep them from feeling pain before other drugs are administered to stop the lungs and heart.

But several executions nationwide in which inmates have lurched and coughed have raised questions about its effectiveness. Attorneys specifically noted the execution of Alabama inmate Ronald Bert Smith last year, in which Smith coughed and heaved for nearly 15 minutes, and appeared to move during consciousness checks.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall argues the drug’s use has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, and courts have already allowed multiple executions using the drug, including Tommy Arthur’s execution last month.