We ensure that people incarcerated on death row have access to high-quality legal representation — perhaps for the first time since their arrest. To date, we have represented 24 prisoners on Alabama’s death row at all stages of post-conviction proceedings. Since the project’s inception, hundreds of Sidley partners, counsel, and associates have invested more than 173,500 hours in these cases. Sidley’s representation of people on Alabama’s death row has been greatly supported by the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit based in Montgomery, Alabama.
After 18 years of representing our client, Alan Miller, a Sidley team reached a successful resolution in the case. Mr. Miller is a death row inmate in Alabama who elected under state law to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia rather than lethal injection. Following Alabama’s refusal to honor Mr. Miller’s election, Sidley filed a federal lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting the State from executing Mr. Miller by lethal injection. The District Court granted the preliminary injunction, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the injunction on the night of Mr. Miller’s execution date. The State accordingly attempted to execute Mr. Miller by lethal injection in the remaining hours before midnight, but could not do so because the practitioners could not find a vein. That was unsurprising since Mr. Miller had previously explained that he elected nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection because all his life medical practitioners had struggled to access his veins, causing him severe pain.
Following its failed attempt at executing Mr. Miller, the State then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a second attempt at executing Mr. Miller by lethal injection. Sidley, on behalf of Mr. Miller, brought a second round of federal court litigation arguing that a second lethal injection attempt would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Mr. Miller ultimately settled his case against the State. Under the settlement, the State agreed it would only attempt execution by nitrogen hypoxia, if and when that method of execution, which has never been used in the United States, is available. Alabama can never again try to execute Mr. Miller by lethal injection.
Sidley recently helped obtain a significant pro bono victory in the high-profile case involving Ohio death row inmate Tyrone Noling, who was convicted of a double homicide and sentenced to death in 1996. Since his arrest, he has maintained his innocence and, most recently, has been fighting to win a new trial based on a Brady claim. In March 2022, the Ohio Court of Appeals issued a decision that brings him one step closer to that goal. The appeals court reversed the trial court’s denial of access to state files to determine whether potentially exculpatory evidence was suppressed at his original trial, holding that the trial court violated the appellate court’s previous mandate, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. Sidley led the briefing on appeal, and co-counsel from the Ohio Innocence Project argued the appeal. This case has been the subject of much media attention, including a powerful documentary, a recent podcast, and an episode of “Death Row Stories.”