Joe Raedle/Newsmakers/Getty Images
The death chamber in Huntsville, Texas, is the busiest in the country. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the execution of 28-year-old Carlton Turner Jr.
The death chamber in Huntsville, Texas, is the busiest in the country. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the execution of 28-year-old Carlton Turner Jr. Joe Raedle/Newsmakers/Getty Images
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the execution of a Texas man, a move that could slow the pace of executions in states using lethal injection.
Attorneys for 28-year-old Carlton Turner Jr. appealed the case to the high court this week, saying Texas' method for carrying out executions constitutes unconstitutionally cruel punishment.
Turner's appeal was linked to those of two Kentucky inmates, which the justices on Tuesday agreed to consider. Kentucky and Texas use similar injection procedures employing three drugs.
Alabama Execution Temporarily Stayed
The Supreme Court is not expected to rule on the Kentucky case until some time next year, but the justices' involvement in the death penalty cases is already having an impact.
On Thursday, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley temporarily stayed the execution of a contract killer so the inmate could be put to death using a new lethal injection formula.
Riley said he issued the 45-day stay of Tommy Arthur's execution to allow time for the new lethal-injection procedures to be put in place. The changes are designed to make sure the inmate is unconscious when the drugs that stop the heart and lungs are administered.
The governor encouraged the attorney general's office to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to set another execution date as soon as possible. Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said the request would be filed with the court Friday.
Before Riley issued the stay, state officials had said they intended to execute Arthur at 6 p.m. Thursday, even though the changes Riley ordered could not be implemented by then. They maintained the procedures already in place were constitutional.
However, Arthur's attorney, Suhana Han, contended that Riley's order to change the protocol amounted to the state conceding that its execution procedure was deficient.
Delaware Challenge on Hold
Another lethal injection lawsuit filed by a convicted ax murderer on Delaware's death row had been scheduled for trial Oct. 9. A federal judge postponed the trial Wednesday, citing the pending Supreme Court case.
In Texas, Turner would have been the 27th inmate to be executed this year and the second this week.
In the appeal, his lawyers said that if the first of the three drugs failed to render Turner unconscious, he would suffer too much. "The inmate will experience excruciating pain and torture as the second and third drugs are administered," the appeal stated.
Another Texas execution is scheduled for next week, one of at least three more set for this year. The status of that case is uncertain in light of Thursday's developments.
But earlier this week, another Texas inmate was executed just hours after the justices announced their intention to review the Kentucky case.
Lawyers attributed that execution to the short period they had to prepare appeals for convicted killer Michael Richard. The justices did consider an appeal before turning it down, and Richard was executed after about a two-hour delay.
Like Turner, Arthur had asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay pending its ruling on the Kentucky case. The Alabama Supreme Court declined to grant a stay Wednesday.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press