Texas appeals court stays execution in lethal injection challenge

[JURIST] The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] has stayed Tuesday's scheduled execution [JURIST news archive] of a gang member who tortured and killed two teenage girls [Texas AG press release]. The reason for the stay, announced in a brief order Monday, was unclear. Lawyers for Derrick Sean O'Brien [NCADP profile], 31, had argued that the drugs used for lethal injection "unnecessarily create a risk that O'Brien will suffer excruciating excessive pain" in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The US Supreme Court heard arguments [transcript; JURIST report] last month in a Hill v. McDonough [merits briefs], a case from Florida about whether inmates can file last-minute civil rights challenges to the chemicals used in lethal injection even if they have exhausted their regular appeals. Texas' lethal injection procedure is similar to Florida's, but O'Brien's case is the first to raise the question in the Texas courts. O'Brien's lawyers said the ruling indicated the court's willingness to impose a moratorium on executions pending the Supreme Court's decision. The Texas court may have a chance to clarify the significance of the stay before Wednesday evening, when Texas is scheduled to execute another inmate, Jermaine Herron [TDCJ profile]. AP has more. The Houston Chronicle has local coverage.

 

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