CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Texas High Court Could Be Halting Executions

From Roiled by internal dissent over its handling of a previous execution appeal, Texas' highest criminal court Tuesday blocked the state from carrying out its next scheduled execution — signaling a temporary halt for the nation's busiest death chamber.

Heliberto Chi was scheduled to die tonight for the 2001 killing of an Arlington store manager.

Instead, the Honduran man became the second Texas inmate to win a court-ordered reprieve while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the method of lethal injection used in Texas and three dozen other states violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The Supreme Court last week blocked Texas from executing Carlton Turner Jr. while the lethal injection challenge is pending.

"It seems clear, based on the actions (by the two courts), that executions will be on hold for the next several months," said Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, which helped defend Chi. "We have what seems to be a temporary stop."

Chi's stay of execution, delivered in an unsigned but unanimous order from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, gives Tarrant County prosecutors 30 days to file briefs rebutting Chi's claim that the three drugs used for lethal injection can subject inmates to intense pain.

The Chi ruling came as new details emerged about the Texas court's refusal to stay open past 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 so lawyers could file an appeal on behalf of death row inmate Michael Richard. The Supreme Court had accepted the lethal injection case earlier that day, and Richard's lawyers argued that the extra time was needed to respond to the new circumstances and to address computer problems that delayed the printing of Richard's motion. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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