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September 28, 2007

Supreme Court Stays Executions

On Tuesday I noted (external link) that the Supreme Court has accepted a lethal injection case for its coming term.

It looks like the Court will be putting a halt to all lethal injection executions until that case is resolved. A Texas inmate set to be executed last night asked for a stay until the Kentucky lethal injection case is resolved. The Court, by at least five members, agreed.

Although the court gave no reason for its decision, the inmate, Carlton Turner Jr., had appealed to the court after it agreed on Tuesday to consider the constitutionality of lethal injection, the most commonly used method of execution in the United States. The decision suggests that until it issues a ruling on lethal injection, the court may be receptive to requests to delay such executions, at least for defendants whose cases raise no procedural issues.

Expect all death penalty inmates who have exhausted their appeals to petition the Court for stays. This won't be a setback for many states who already have placed moratoriums on capital punishment until the courts have resolved the question. But Texas had intended to go on with its scheduled executions.

One interesting thing I hadn't heard before was that states are finally getting creative with plans to continue with capital punishment:

In Alabama, where politicians rarely challenge the death penalty, the state is developing a “consciousness awareness test” for inmates being executed, but state officials maintained that the action was unconnected to the Supreme Court decision.

“Somebody would come in and do something to assess consciousness, after the anesthesia is delivered,” Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said. For now, he said, "the consciousness-awareness is being done visually by the warden.”

The idea is that an inmate who is unconscious cannot suffer a terrifying, excruciating death.

As ever, I remain opposed to the use of capital punishment in this country at this time, but not for what are almost certainly bogus "cruel and unusual punishment" reasons.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:00 PM

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