Sunday, 28 October 2007

Controversy over lethal injection escalates

Thursday, October 25th, 2007 7:11 pm

For the first time since the Supreme Court opened an inquiry into the constitutionality of the lethal injection method of executions, a federal appeals court has moved to review en banc the question of what lower courts should do about delaying death sentences in other states. A majority of the nine participating judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court based in Atlanta voted to rehear the state of Alabama’s request to go ahead with the execution of serial killer Daniel Lee Siebert. The actual vote was not disclosed.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit postponed Siebert’s execution, scheduled for Thursday evening. The panel did not give a full explanation of its reasons, simply noting that the Supeme Court was “presently considering the constitutionality of the challenge lethal injection protocol,” so, “accordingly,” it issued a stay of Siebert’s execution. It said the stay would remain in effect until the Supreme Court decided the issue in the Kentucky case of Baze v. Rees (07-5439).

But the en banc Circuit Court, with three of its judges not participating, said that one of its judges had asked that the Court be polled on the state’s petition for rehearing en banc, filed earlier Thursday. After a majority voted to do so, the Court nullified the panel order, but on its own reimposed a delay of the execution “pending further en banc consideration of this case.” The Court’s order can be found here.

One of the state’s arguments for proceeding with the execution is that it has altered the protocol to reduce the possibility that the three-chemical formula would result in severe pain and suffering to a dying inmate. The case is Siebert v. Allen (Circuit docket 07-14956).

(Thanks to Howard Bashman of How Appealing blog for the alert to the Circuit Court’s new order.)

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