Death Warrant Update — Courts Halt Executions in Tennessee, Pennsylvania; Vacate Stay in Texas

NEWS (6/12/20) — Texas: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit lifted a stay of execution the federal district court had granted to Ruben Gutierrez. The action reactivates the death warrant scheduling Mr. Gutierrez’s execution for June 16.

Gutierrez had sought the stay to permit DNA testing that he says will show that he did not commit the killing that put him on death row and to be permitted the presence of a chaplain in the execution chamber if the execution were to be carried out. His lawyers will be asking the Supreme Court to issue a stay of execution to review these issues.

NEWS (6/12/20) — Tennessee: The Tennessee Supreme Court has granted Byron Black’s motion to delay his scheduled October 8, 2020 execution because of the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his lawyers’ ability to investigate issues in his case and to prepare legal pleadings and a clemency petition. The court rescheduled Black’s execution for April 8, 2021.

NEWS (6/12/20) — The Pike County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas has stayed the June 22 execution of Eric Frein to permit him to pursue post-conviction appeals that are available to all convicted defendants under Pennsylvania law.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel had issued the legally premature Notice of Execution on May 11, as required under Pennsylvania’s 1995 automatic death warrant statute. More than 400 death warrants have been issued under the statute, seeking to execute prisoners before they have completed the appeals process. The courts routinely stay those executions.

See Upcoming Executions and Outcomes of 2020 Death Warrants