There have been no executions since Sept. 25, as more than a dozen death row inmates received stays of execution after the Supreme Court decided to hear a January challenge to lethal injection, the dominant mode of execution in the nation. The freeing of inmates Curtis McCarty in Oklahoma, Michael McCormick in Tennessee and Jonathon Hoffman in North Carolina brought to 126 the number of wrongfully convicted individuals who have been released from death rows in the last 20 years. This year governors in three states, including Texas, commuted the sentences of three death row inmates to life without parole. Last year, there were no commutations. Litigation over lethal injection clearly had a significant effect on the death penalty landscape this year. More than 40 people received stays of execution because of lethal injection challenges this year, the center said. Although the center was pleased with this development, Dieter acknowledged that once the Supreme Court ruled on the pending challenge to Kentucky’s lethal injection law, there could be an increase in executions next year. That case, Baze vs. Rees, is set for oral arguments Jan. 7. “At some point, these cases will start to move through the system again,” said Jim Marcus, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law, who has represented a number of death row inmates. He recalled that at one point in the mid-1990s, Texas had only three executions as courts there sorted out a new habeas corpus law. Within a year, the number of executions rose to 40, the most of any year since the Supreme Court permitted states to reinstate capital punishment in 1976 after a four-year hiatus. Marcus said that but for stays granted because of lethal injection challenges, there would have been “at least three more executions in Texas this year,” and he expressed concern that 2008 “could be a record-setting year in Texas” depending on the Supreme Court ruling.
Los Angeles Times
Experts Say Litigation Over Lethal Injection Clearly Had a Significant Effect on the Death Penalty this Year.