[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] granted a stay of execution [order, PDF] to a convicted murderer on Mississippi's death row Tuesday, pending the Court's decision on whether to grant certiorari in the case. Earl Wesley Berry was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday night; his was the third stay granted by the justices since they agreed last month in Baze v. Rees (07-5439) [docket; cert. petition] to hear a challenge to the use of lethal injections [JURIST news archive] as a form of "cruel and unusual punishment." Experts say that the stay may amount to a de facto nationwide moratorium on the death penalty. ABC News has more. AP has additional coverage.
In Baze v. Rees, the Court will consider whether the controversial three-drug mixture [DPIC backgrounder] of an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Several constitutional challenges to the procedure have arisen across the country, arguing that the first drug fails to make the inmate fully unconscious, thereby making the inmate suffer excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected. Several states have already placed a moratorium on lethal injections pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.