Saturday, 24 February 2007

All Delaware executions put on hold

All Delaware executions put on hold
Posted Friday, February 23, 2007 at 5:30 pm

WILMINGTON -- All executions in Delaware are now officially on hold.

Today, a federal judge granted class action status to a lawsuit charging the state’s method of lethal injection amounts to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

This means a May 2006 stay, which blocked convicted ax murderer Robert Jackson’s execution, now applies to the other 15 inmates on Delaware’s death row.

“It [the judge’s order] has formally included these other inmates and based on this today, there will be a formal stay on executions until this case is resolved,” said Andy Amsler, spokesperson of Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.

The state had opposed class action status, arguing that it was possible for attorneys to contact each death row inmate to get them to sign onto the lawsuit.

At a hearing earlier this month, Deputy Attorney General Gregory Smith also argued that class action status might deprive any inmate of the right to “volunteer” for execution.

Chief Judge Sue L. Robinson rejected those arguments today, stating in an eight-page opinion that it made more sense to grant the case class action status, both in terms of conserving court resources and in guaranteeing a consistent outcome for all inmates.

Philadelphia Federal Community Defender Michael Wiseman, whose office represents Jackson and pressed for class action status, said they now look forward to proceeding with depositions in the case.

The case is set for a September bench trial in front of Robinson.

As a practical matter, attorneys on all sides said that all executions had been on hold informally since Robinson’s May ruling. All a defense attorney would have to do to get a stay would be to join Jackson’s lawsuit.

Delaware has not scheduled any executions since Robinson’s ruling last year.

Contact Sean O’Sullivan at 324-2777 or

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