Alabama double killer becomes first death-row inmate put to death in state since nitrogen execution

A man convicted of a 2004 double killing has become the first person to be executed in Alabama since Kenneth Eugene Smith was put to death by nitrogen gas in January.

Jamie Ray Mills, 50, was executed by lethal injection on Thursday at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama.

He was accused of beating to death and robbing elderly couple, Floyd and Vera Hill, in 2004 at their home in Guin, a small city about 70 miles northwest of Birmingham.

Floyd, 87, died in the attack, but Vera, 72, survived for two months before succumbing to her injuries in hospital.

Mills’ execution was scheduled following the death of Kenneth Eugene Smith, who became the first person in US history to be put to death by nitrogen gas in January, despite his objections to the method.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a motion to set Mills’ execution date, writing that “it was time for his death sentence to be carried out.”

“There is no doubt that Mills committed those offenses,” he wrote. “Mills’ convictions and sentence are final.”

Jamie Ray Mills was executed by the state of Alabama on Thursday (ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS)
Jamie Ray Mills was executed by the state of Alabama on Thursday (ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS)

The Alabama Supreme Court approved Marshall’s request for execution on March 20, allowing Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to set Thursday’s execution.

The 30-hour window for Mills’ execution began at 12am on Thursday 30 May, and ended at 6am on Friday.

The Alabama Department of Corrections did not specify which drugs were used for the lethal injection.

“Most three-drug protocols use an anesthetic or sedative, followed by a drug to paralyze the inmate, and finally a drug to stop the heart. The one- and two-drug protocols typically use an overdose of an anesthetic or sedative to cause death,” according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Department of Corrections has not specified the request made by Mills for his last meal.

Mills attempted to appeal his death sentence on several occasions, arguing that his ex-wife JoAnn Mills, who testified against him, lied on the stand when she told the court that she saw her ex-husband kill the Hills with a ball peen hammer, tire tool and machete.

The couple was arrested a day after the murders, and were found with the suspected murder weapons in their car, according to court documents. Mills argued that the physical evidence collected not only proved his innocence, but supported the theory that he was framed by a local drug user who had access to his vehicle on the night the Hills were killed.

Kenneth Eugene Smith was put to death by nitrogen gas in January 2024 in Alabama (AP)
Kenneth Eugene Smith was put to death by nitrogen gas in January 2024 in Alabama (AP)

Alabama’s Attorney General disagreed, arguing that Mills’ claims about the validity of his ex-wife’s testimony were “improper, untimely, and meritless,” serving as a way to “further delay the execution.”

AG Marshall also defended JoAnn Mills’ testimony and noted her cooperation which earned her a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

Mills later attempted to delay his execution for a second time, filing a motion alleging that he might be strapped to the execution gurney for an extended period of time, describing it as “unnecessarily cruel.” He also cited examples of four executions carried out improperly and which caused unnecessary suffering.

AG Marshall argued that there was no data to support the claim that Mills could be strapped to a gurney for an “unconstitutionally long time.”

The 11th Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals denied two attempts by Mills to halt his execution this week, with two federal judges arguing that he could have brought the information forward “several years ago.”

However, Middle District Court judge Emily Marks wrote that the corrections department has been known on “several occasions” to subject inmates to “prolonged executions or execution attempts during which those inmates were unnecessarily strapped to the execution gurney.”