Judges Halt Upcoming Alabama Execution

Jun 3, 2017

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted this week’s scheduled execution of convicted killer Robert Bryant Melson. His defense team successfully argued against Alabama’s plans to use a sedative which will not render their client unconscious before other drugs stop his lungs and heart. A three-judge panel granted the emergency stay requested by Robert Bryant Melson. He was scheduled to be executed this Thursday for killing three Gadsden restaurant employees during a 1994 robbery.

Melson is one of several inmates who filed lawsuits, which were consolidated, arguing that the state's execution method is unconstitutional. A federal judge in March dismissed the lawsuits, and the inmates appealed to the 11th Circuit saying the judge prematurely dismissed their claims. A three-judge panel of 11th Circuit judges did not say whether they thought the inmates would succeed in their appeals. To the contrary, the judges wrote Friday that they were staying Melson's execution to avoid the "untenable" prejudging of the inmates' cases.

The inmates claim Alabama's use of the sedative midazolam at the start of the execution will not render them unconscious before other drugs stop their lungs and heart and that Alabama does not effectively check for consciousness. Alabama last week executed inmate Tommy Arthur for the murder-for-hire slaying of riverboat engineer Troy Wicker. Arthur did not cough or lurch like a previous death row inmate. Alabama has carried out a total of three executions using midazolam.