Death row inmate gets seventh reprieve

This undated photograph courtesy of the California Department of Corrections shows the San Quentin Prison execution chamber where death row inmates are executed by lethal injection. Photo: AFP PHOTO/CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

WASHINGTON – An inmate set to die by lethal injection in the southern US state of Alabama was granted an 11th-hour reprieve late on Thursday, his latest stay of execution.

The late-night order by the Supreme Court in Washington was the seventh time that Thomas Arthur, 74, has seen his scheduled execution called off.

Arthur had been scheduled to die at 6pm at the prison in Altmore, following decades-long imprisonment for his conviction in the 1982 murder of his mistress's husband.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued an order about 10.30pm on Thursday temporarily halting the execution, which had been delayed so he could consider the issue, until he or other justices made another decision, a court document said.

Just before midnight, the Supreme Court granted Arthur's request to stay the execution, the Washington Post reported. It would remain in place until the full court decides whether it will consider the case.

If it decides not to take on the case, the stay would be terminated, the Washington Post said.

Lawyers for Arthur had argued that a drug in Alabama's lethal injection cocktail, the sedative midazolam, would have "torturous effects", after having been used in three botched executions elsewhere, the newspaper said.

The lawyers had also filed an appeal based on Arthur's being sentenced to death by a judge following a non-unanimous jury recommendation.

In January, the US Supreme Court ruled that Florida's death sentencing process, which was similar to Alabama's, was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to the detriment of juries.

The pace of executions is declining in the US, due to a combination of factors including a shortage of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.


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