Ala. executes inmate convicted in '94 triple murder

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.

Officials say 46-year-old Robert Melson was pronounced dead at 10:27 p.m. CDT Thursday following a lethal injection at a southwest Alabama prison.

Melson was convicted of the murders of three fast-food restaurant employees during a robbery in 1994.

"If a stay were granted, Melson's execution would be delayed many months, if not years".

Melson had been convicted of multiple accounts of capital murder, attempted murder and robbery. Collins' mother and two sisters witnessed the execution.

Last week, a federal appeals court in Atlanta issued a stay of execution for Melson because of the drug issue.

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

State prosecutors said Melson and another man who used to work at the restaurant, robbed a Popeyes in Gadsden - about 60 miles northeast of Birmingham. 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.

The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily halted the death of an Alabama inmate as it reviews his request to block his execution over questions regarding a sedative's effectiveness.

The Alabama attorney general's office has argued that the Supreme Court upheld midazolam's use in executions and was therefore legal to use.

As the restaurant was closing at about midnight, Melson and another robber forced four employees to remove cash from the restaurant safe and then ordered them into a freezer, court documents said.

The Attorney General's Office has argued that the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts have already ruled that midazolam can be used as part of the lethal injection drug cocktail. Peraita was initially sentenced to life in prison but is now on death row after stabbing another inmate.

  • Larry Hoffman