Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the high court's three liberal justices on Thursday in dissenting a decision to allow the execution of an Alabama inmate, but the state called off the execution at the last minute.
Alabama prison officials said they could not access inmate Alan Eugene Miller's veins before a midnight deadline, so the execution could not be performed. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said Miller's execution will be rescheduled at the "earliest opportunity," according to WVTM 13.
In a 5-4 vote prior to the halted procedure, the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of Miller could move forward, lifting a lower court's injunction that had blocked his death by lethal injection. Barrett joined Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson in dissent.
Miller, 57, was convicted of murdering three people in a 1999 workplace shooting.
In 2020 and 2021, Barrett voted similarly with liberal justices in just over half of the cases heard. Her agreement rate, which indicates how often two justices were on the same side of the court's decision, with Sotomayor averaged 53%, and it averaged 63% with Kagan.
Barrett has sided with the liberal justices in other death penalty cases.
In February 2021, Barrett sided with Sotomayor, Kagan, former Justice Stephen Breyer, and a justice who did not disclose his vote in a "shadow docket" case that blocked the execution of Alabama inmate Willie Smith. A "shadow docket" case is when there are no oral arguments and little reasoning is provided to justify the court's verdict. Smith had been convicted of robbing 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson and fatally shooting her after he forced her into the trunk of her car in 1991. Smith then set the car on fire with Johnson's body inside.
In January 2022, Barrett once again sided with Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer in voting to block the execution of Alabama inmate Matthew Reeves, who was convicted of robbing and killing a tow truck driver in 1998.
However, Barrett has not exclusively voted against the death penalty in Supreme Court cases. She went against liberal justices in the March 2022 case that reinstated the death penalty for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The Supreme Court's ruling in Miller's case came at about 9 p.m. on Thursday, leaving prison officials in Alabama three hours to perform the execution before a death warrant for Miller expired.
Alabama has authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative execution method, in which the inmate is forced to breathe only nitrogen gas, but it has never used this method to carry out a death sentence.