Alabama is preparing to execute an inmate for the shooting deaths of three fast food restaurant workers during a 1994 robbery.

Robert Bryant Melson, 46, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday evening at a south Alabama prison.

State prosecutors said Melson and another man who used to work at the restaurant, robbed a Popeye’s in Gadsden, 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Birmingham. They said Melson opened fire on four employees that had been ordered into 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. While he could not identify Melson, prosecutors said Melson told police he had been with the former employee that night. A shoeprint behind the store matched Melson’s shoes and Melson had asked people to provide him with an alibi when he came under investigation, they said.

Melson’s attorneys made a flurry of last-minute court filings seeking to halt the execution, arguing that Alabama planned to use a sedative called midazolam that would not reliably render him unconscious before he is given other drugs that stop his lungs and heart. They cited midazolam’s use in problematic executions including one in December in which an inmate coughed and heaved for the first 13 minutes of an execution held in December.

“Alabama’s execution protocol is an illusion. It creates the illusion of a peaceful death when in truth, it is anything but,” Melson’s attorneys wrote in the filing to the Alabama Supreme Court. “It should not allow Mr. Melson’s execution to go forward in the face of botched executions and significant challenges to the constitutionality of Alabama’s execution protocol.”

The Alabama Supreme Court and 11th Circuit Court of appeals both denied Melson’s request for a stay.

Alabama attorney general’s office asked the courts to let the executions proceed. State attorneys argued midazolam’s use has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and it has allowed multiple executions to proceed using the drug, including the execution of an Alabama inmate just last month.

The state has maintained there was no evidence that inmates experienced pain using midazolam.

“If a stay were granted, Melson’s execution would be delayed many months, if not years. The State, the victims’ families, and the surviving victim in this case have waited long enough for justice to be delivered,” the attorney general’s office wrote in a Wednesday court filing with the 11th Circuit.

Source: Associated Press

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