The Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon delayed the execution of Thomas D. Arthur, previously scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday. Arthur has a petition pending (Arthur v. Allen, 07-395) challenging the state’s use of a lethal injection protocol to carry out executions. The Court has not acted on the petition. Its order on Wednesday stayed the execution until it acts on the petition, or, if the petition is granted, until the case is decided. Besides raising a constitutional challenge to the lethal injection method, Arthur’s appeal raises another issue the Court has yet to decide: when a constitutional challenge to this method of execution is considered timely filed, when the issue is raised under federal civil rights law, rather than federal habeas law.
The Court in recent weeks has not permitted any execution to proceed when the inmate has sought a stay while challenging lethal injection. It is scheduled to hold a hearing on such challenges on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m.