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May 20, 2006

Recapping a lethal week for lethal injection scrummages

Not surprisingly, because a number of executions were scheduled for last week, it became quite a week for litigation over lethal injection protocols.  The most stunning developments was the flip-flopping on a stay by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (details here and here), which had the effect of saving (for now) the life of a death row inmate who was to be executed on Tuesday, even though a lethal injection execution went forward the following night.  Helpfully, DPIC has updated this webpage covering the lethal injection litigation.

A few sentences from the dissent by the Sixth Circuit's Judge Martin in a case from Tennessee (details here) capture the current litigation realities perfectly:

[T]he dysfunctional patchwork of stays and executions going on in this country further undermines the various states' effectiveness and ability to properly carry out death sentences.  We are currently operating under a system wherein condemned inmates are bringing nearly identical challenges to the lethal injection procedure.  In some instances stays are granted, while in others they are not and the defendants are executed, with no principled distinction to justify such a result.  This adds another arbitrary factor into the equation of death and thus far, there has been no logic behind the Supreme Court's decision as to who lives and who dies.

The big question going forward, of course, is when and how the Supreme Court will address these issues in Hill, and whether the disposition in Hill will add clarity or just further confusion to the lethal injection scrummages.

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May 20, 2006 at 02:18 PM | Permalink

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