As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to consider the constitutionality of Kentucky’s lethal injection procedures, prosecutors in three Texas counties have decided to await the Justices’ ruling rather than ask judges to set execution dates and press forward through the courts. “It seems the common-sense thing to do at this point,” said Roe Wilson, who handles death penalty appeals for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Houston. Harris County sends more inmates to death row than any other county in Texas. Wilson said she plans to ask a judge to withdraw a February 26 execution date for Derrick Sonnier rather than face a court-imposed halt to his execution. Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza has also asked a judge to cancel a scheduled January 24 execution date for the same reason. He noted, “It just seemed to me that the writing was very apparent. Now we’ll let them rule and we can come back in and act accordingly.” In addition, Nueces County prosecutor Carlos Valdez has said he will not seek any more execution dates until the matter is resolved.

There were no executions in the U.S. during October. The Justices will hear arguments in the Kentucky case early next year and a ruling is expected by June. If executions remain on hold, the year will end with a total of 42 executions in the U.S., fewer than any year since 1994. Of those, 26 have been in Texas.
(Associated Press, October 31, 2007). See Lethal Injections and Executions.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recently granted stays of execution in lethal injection challenges from Texas, Virginia, and Mississippi, and upheld stays granted in other states. There is still a pending execution date in Florida: Mark Schwab on Nov. 15. The Florida Supreme Court rejected his challenge to the state’s lethal injection process on Nov. 1. Alabama recently set an execution date of Dec. 6 for Tommy Arthur, even though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit granted a stay to another Alabama inmate on Oct. 24. (DPIC; news sources).