[JURIST] Not a single condemned prisoner was executed in the United States in the month of October, the first such month in nearly three years, AP reported Wednesday. Across the US, many states have declared a moratorium on lethal injection [JURIST news archive] executions, pending the outcome of a Supreme Court case that challenges lethal injection as a form of "cruel and unusual punishment." In Baze v. Rees (07-5439) [docket; cert. petition] the Court will consider whether the controversial three-drug mixture [DPIC backgrounder] of an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Several constitutional challenges to the procedure have arisen across the country, arguing that the first drug fails to make the inmate fully unconscious, thereby making the inmate suffer excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected.
On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court granted a stay of execution [order, PDF] to a convicted murderer on Mississippi's death row, pending the Court's decision on whether to grant certiorari in the case. Earl Wesley Berry was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday night; his was the third stay granted by the justices since they agreed to hear Baze. Experts say that the stays may amount to a de facto nationwide moratorium on the death penalty. AP has more.