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April 2, 2007

What's up with federal executions?

Capital Defense Weekly reports here that "[u]nconfirmed reports have the federal execution date of Bruce Webster for mid-April being stayed."  I cannot find any additional information on the web about this, and I continued to be amazed by how little attention federal executions — or rather the lack of federal executions — receives in the media.

Despite the Bush administration's avowed affinity for the death penalty and its decision to pursue more federal capital cases, there has been little federal execution activity in recent years.  Specifically, as shown at the end of this DPIC list, nearly four years have passed since the last federal execution and only a single federal defendant has been executed in nearly six years. 

Notably, three federal executions were stayed last year because of lethal injection concerns while the Supreme Court considered the Hill case.  But Hill was decided long ago, and I have not heard of any efforts by the Bush administration to gear up the federal execution chamber.  And now there are "unconfirmed reports" about a stay of the federal execution slated for later this month.  Does anyone know exactly what's going and why this significant story does not get nearly as much attention as federal capital prosecutions decisions?

All of these developments confirm the (puzzling?) conclusion I have reached about modern death penalty debates: most folks on both sides of the debate seem to care a lot more about death sentences than they care about whether those sentences result in actual executions.  I guess this is just more proof that death is different.

Some recent related posts:

April 2, 2007 at 05:49 PM | Permalink


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Answer the bolded question: if it bleeds, it leads. Nothing new here.

I'm stumped as to why you think the pro-life side of the debate doesn't care about executions. Candlelight vigils might not sell as well as pre-sentence fear-mongering, but the resolution of the case is usually much more important to the anti-execution movement than any charging decisions.

I do agree that we're losing the will to follow through on a death sentence.

Posted by: rothmatisseko | Apr 2, 2007 7:15:30 PM

The Capital Defense Weekly blog post you link to has a comment from Anne James, the executive director of the International Justice Project, in which she says that she has received a copy of the preliminary injunction in Webster's case from one of his attorneys. Also, you might be interested in this (in German) from one of Webster's penpals in Germany, in which the penpal claims to have received a letter from Webster dated March 8th in which Webster says his execution has been stayed.

Interestingly, this article from last week concerning Staten Island's recent death penalty case mentions Webster in passing (on the second page of the article), noting (incorrectly as we now know) that his execution is scheduled for this month.

As for the larger issue, you raise an excellent question which I cannot answer.

Posted by: NCProsecutor | Apr 3, 2007 11:51:15 AM

we don't have to OFFICIALLY kill people any more. We just send them to Turkey and have the Turks do it for us. That "Death Row" glamour loses a bit of its lustre when you know you're going to have red-hot coathangers shoved up your naked ass for six weeks before you're mercifully allowed to choke to death on your own vomit.

Remember: it's not cruel and unusual; we're doing it to LOTS of people.

Posted by: tekel | Apr 3, 2007 11:53:27 AM

The order in the stay is now online at the CDW blog. The stay was ordered February 16, 2007. It never hit the papers & AP this weekend even ran a story saying the execution date was still scheduled.

Posted by: karl | Apr 3, 2007 12:03:12 PM

Case No. 1:05-CV-2337 (RWR)
JAMES H. ROANE, JR., et al., Plaintiffs, v. ALBERTO GONZALES, et al., Defendants.
The lethal injection protocol employed by the defendants violates the United States Constitution and other statutory provisions including but not limited to the Fifth and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq. Plaintiff Bruce Webster, a death row inmate, requests that this Court enjoin defendants from executing him until the Court has reviewed the legality and constitutionality of the Defendants’ lethal injection protocol. The grounds for this Motion are fully set forth in the accompanying Memorandum of Points and Authorities. Counsel for Webster has conferred with counsel for the defendants, and counsel for the defendants have represented that they do not oppose this motion for a preliminary injunction. January 29, 2007

Posted by: rothmatisseko | Apr 3, 2007 12:55:52 PM

That the USDOJ is not opposing this motion is an outrage. It's been almost a year since the three Roane defendants' execution was stayed.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 3, 2007 1:41:13 PM

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