Disease and suicide are claiming inmates on Alabama's death row faster than the executioner, reports the Associated Press. With Alabama's capital punishment mechanism on hold for more than two years because of legal challenges and a shortage of drugs for lethal injections, five of the state's death row inmates have died in the past year without ever seeing the inside of the execution chamber. John Milton Hardy, convicted of a robbery and murder in 1993, was the most recent to die. Prison officials say he died of unspecified natural causes on June 15.
The last inmate put to death in Alabama was Andrew Reid Lackey, executed by lethal injection on July 25, 2013, for a 2005 robbery and murder. With 189 people currently on death row, the state is trying to resume executions, but legal challenges could be a roadblock. The state is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by death row inmate Tommy Arthur, who challenged the use of the lethal-injection sedative midazolam as inhumane. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of the drug in an Oklahoma case, but Arthur contends Alabama's execution protocol is different.