Death row inmate Robert Melson was executed Thursday night in Alabama. The 46-year-old convicted murderer was sentenced to death for the 1994 killing of three people at a Popeye’s restaurant.
Put to death by lethal injection, Melson took his last breath at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. He was pronounced dead at 10:27 p.m. CDT.
Despite multiple appeals from Melson’s attorneys, the Alabama execution began around 9:55 p.m. Melson declined to say any last words.
Once the first of three drugs began pumping into Melson’s system, witnesses saw his hands shake as his chest moved up and down rapidly. Shortly thereafter, Melson’s breathing slowed, and he failed to respond to a consciousness check. The second and third drugs, designed to completely stop the heart and lungs, were then administered.
“Robert Melson’s decades-long avoidance of justice is over,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall after the Alabama execution, as cited by AL.com. “For 23 years, the families of the three young people whose lives he took, as well as a survivor, have waited for closure and healing. That process can finally begin tonight.”
Earlier in the day, attorneys for Melson argued against the state’s preferred method of lethal injection, claiming the technique is inhumane as well as cruel and unusual punishment. Alabama uses the drug midazolam in the execution process. The sedative is supposed to subdue a prisoner’s pain and put them in a state of unconsciousness.
However, there have been cases where condemned prisoners lurched or coughed while being put to death. This has many calling for the ban of midazolam for execution purposes. In December, during another Alabama execution, the inmate coughed and heaved for nearly 15 minutes before ultimately surrendering to unconsciousness.
“Alabama’s execution protocol is an illusion. It creates the illusion of a peaceful death when in truth, it is anything but,” wrote Melson’s attorneys, per a report from Fox News.
Melson’s defense team put up a strong argument against the use of midazolam by citing previous botched executions not only in Alabama but also Arizona and Oklahoma. However, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state’s attorney general and denied the request for an execution stay.
Robert Melson was sent to Alabama’s death row after being convicted of capital murder for the untimely deaths of Nathaniel Baker, 17, Darryl Collier, 23, Tamika Collins, 18. The three were employees of a popular Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama.
“As governor, I do not relish the responsibility that I hold related to executions of those convicted of capital murder in this state,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, according to the AL.com report. “However, it is my duty and my charge, on behalf of the people of Alabama, to ensure that justice is done, by both the victims and the convicted.”
In April 1994, Melson and Cuhuatemoc Peraita were robbing the fried chicken restaurant when they forced the store’s workers into the walk-in freezer. Baker, Collier, Collins, and another worker, Bryant Archer, were shot a few moments later. Archer survived the shooting and was later able to identify Peraita as one of the perpetrators.
According to Archer’s testimony, Peraita was a former employee at the Popeye’s restaurant. While he recognized Peraita during the robbery, he did not know the other assailant. During the investigation, police learned Melson was the unidentified robber and determined he was the shooter.
As Peraita was only 17-years-old at the time, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his part in the robbery. Yet, he is currently awaiting execution after being convicted of the murder of another prisoner.
The Alabama execution of Robert Bryant Melson is the state’s second one this year and the 13th in the nation. Currently, the state has 185 prisoners waiting on death row for their date with fate.
[Featured Image by Alabama Department of Corrections via AP]