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June 9, 2017

Alabama carries out second execution in as many weeks using midazolam as first lethal injection drug

A couple of weeks ago, as noted here, Alabama carried out the death sentence of Tommy Arthur for a 1982 murder-for-hire.  Last night, as this AP article reports, the state executed a "man convicted of killing three people during the 1994 robbery of an Alabama fast-food restaurant." Here are the basics:

Robert Melson, 46, was pronounced dead at 10:27 p.m. CDT Thursday at a southwest Alabama prison, authorities said. The execution was the state's second of the year. State prosecutors said Melson and another man who used to work at the restaurant, robbed a Popeye's in Gadsden, 60 miles northeast of Birmingham, and Melson opened fire on four employees in the restaurant's freezer. Nathaniel Baker, Tamika Collins and Darrell Collier were killed.  The surviving employee, Bryant Archer, crawled for help and was able to identify one of the robbers as the former worker which led police to Melson.

Collins' family members wore a badge with her photograph and the phrase "In Our Hearts Forever."  Her family issued a statement saying that three young people lost their lives for "a few hundred dollars" and criticized court filings on behalf of Melson that challenged the state's execution procedure as inhumane. Collins' mother and two sisters witnessed the execution. "He has been on death row for over 21 years being supported by the state of Alabama and feels he should not suffer a little pain during the execution. What does he think those three people suffered after he shot them, leaving them in a freezer?" the statement said.

Melson shook his head no when the prison warden asked if he had a final statement.  A prison chaplain knelt with him. Melson's hands quivered at the start of the procedure and his breathing was labored, with his chest moving up and down quickly, before slowing until it was no longer perceptible.

Melson's attorneys had filed a flurry of last-minute appeals seeking to stay the execution.  The filings centered on Alabama's use of the sedative midazolam which some states have turned to as other lethal injection drugs became difficult to obtain.  The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily delayed the execution to consider Melson's stay request, but ruled after 9 p.m. that the execution could go forward....

"Robert Melson's decades-long avoidance of justice is over. For twenty-three years, the families of the three young people whose lives he took, as well as a survivor, have waited for closure and healing. That process can finally begin tonight," Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement after the execution.

I have stressed in my post title the drug Alabama has used in its recent executions in part because that drug is sure to be at the center of discussions next week when the full en banc Sixth Circuit considers a current stay on Ohio executions based in part on concerns with the use of the drug midzolam. For basic background on that story, one can check out these posts:

June 9, 2017 at 09:58 AM | Permalink


The lower court first stayed the case to have more time and then SCOTUS granted a request to revoke the stay, with three justices dissenting on record. Then, things went the usual last day way, SCOTUS with the usual order denying the stay without comment.

Right or wrong, SCOTUS should have explained why they did what they did in the first order, and the dissent should have explained why they disagreed. A person's life was at stake. If you are strongly against the lower court's actions, a brief discussion on why they were wrong would help too as a message to other lower courts. A simple revoking can mean any number of things, lower judges not mind reading.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 9, 2017 10:13:34 AM

"A person's life was at stake."


Posted by: federalist | Jun 9, 2017 11:16:37 AM

#KILLtheKILLERS Now marks the second straight AL execution using Midzolam without any side effects. Seems like the 11th circuit has no grounds to rule otherwise. Why no links to the 3 lefty judges decision who initially held this up? Their logic for a stay was at best peculiar at worst incompetence. Good news for OH's use in their executions as well. Time to start up CA and OH and FL and KY and IN...

Posted by: DeanO | Jun 9, 2017 12:43:47 PM

The people of the U.S. don't support "killing the killers."

In certain states, they support killing a small number of them, and even then, the determinative middle are conflicted & it is not high priority for them.

To the degree the 11CA argument is weak, if SCOTUS isn't going to say why, seems like it just encourages more of the same, appellate actors fairly easily finding differentials between cases even when there isn't much of one. SCOTUS justices at times brag about showing their work, but in various cases they do not.


One of the judges is a Ford appointee.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 9, 2017 1:35:27 PM

He should have been placed in general population, and died 20 years and a $million or tow in legal costs ago. The lawyer profession is too stupid to understand that.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 9, 2017 4:12:09 PM

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