The Execution of Jamie Mills


Jamie Mills has become the second person executed by the State of Alabama this year. His execution follows a series of executions that have drawn international condemnation after evidence of cruel, torturous, and horrific abuse of condemned people was documented.

The autopsy of Joe James revealed shocking violence to his body by correctional officials in July 2022; his execution is now regarded as the longest and most extended execution in the modern era. Kenny Smith and Alan Miller actually survived failed executions and were returned to their cells after hours on the death gurney, where they were cut, bruised, and mutilated before their executions were suspended.

In January 2024, Kenny Smith was subjected to an experimental “new method” of killing involving nitrogen, during which eyewitnesses reported that he writhed in agony, struggled, and choked for an extended period of time.

Throughout these most recent botched and failed executions, state officials have ignored the incompetence of executioners, disregarded any semblance of credibility or legitimacy, and misrepresented what has taken place.

No human being should be subject to the kind of cruelty, torture, and abuse at the hands of a state government funded by taxpayers that has defined most of the recent executions carried out by the State of Alabama.

Jamie Mills asked federal courts to provide some basic protections, such as a commitment to minimize the amount of time the condemned person can be on the death gurney and allowing his lawyer to be present in the chamber to monitor the proceedings. Courts rejected these requests, allowing Alabama’s unapologetic state officials to once again start a process of killing a human being with uncertainty about what level of torture and cruelty will take place.

Even without dramatic breakdowns in the execution process this evening, the execution of Jamie Mills has been added to the long list of state misconduct that too often accompanies imposition of the death penalty.

Mr. Mills always maintained his innocence and asserted that he was the victim of false testimony by his ex-wife who lied at trial. No one disputes that JoAnn Mills was the State’s main witness and the primary reason for the jury’s conviction and death sentence against Mr. Mills. Mr. Mills desperately tried to prove that the testimony of JoAnn Mills was unreliable and was orchestrated as part of a plea deal that would spare her from extreme punishment even though she also faced the death penalty.

State prosecutors adamantly denied there was a deal, an “expectation,” or even “a suggestion” that charges against JoAnn Mills would be reduced if she testified against Jamie. They made this representation for 17 years in various state and federal courts.

After the execution date was scheduled two months ago, JoAnn Mills’s lawyer came forward to admit that there was in fact a plea deal and that he and JoAnn Mills had met with prosecutors and members of the victims’ family in advance of the trial. She was given a reduced sentence 10 days after Jamie Mills was convicted and sentenced to death.

For weeks, Mr. Mills asked state and federal courts to address the state prosecutor’s deception and suppression of critical information, and the serious doubts now looming over his conviction. Our legal system—which has become more committed to finality than fairness—responded with a judgment of “too late.” Alabama could have actually reviewed the disturbing new evidence that warrants a new trial and get to a place where confidence in the verdict could accompany the imposed sentence. But that did not happen.

Instead Jamie Mills became yet another person needlessly killed by state officials who comfortably tolerate state deception, violation of the law, and breach of fundamental constitutional rights in an effort to carry out a death sentence they claim upholds the rule of law. There will come a day when governments recognize the perverse injustice of this process and the wrongfulness of this punishment. It will be a day that is too late for Jamie Mills, which makes his death tragically regrettable and mournfully unjust.