That seems to be the case for the rest of the country but 5 of 9 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges and the Texas Attorney General want to continue. For the full story read the New York Times coverage, Doc Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy, and Steve Hall at the Stand Down Project:
- NYT: Texas planning new execution despite ruling
- Berman: A Texas companion? A lenghty de facto moratorium? What the Baze f@%$, SCOTUS?
- Stand Down: Texas coverage of LI status and the Chi case
At the end of the Times' article we learn that an execution earlier this week was allowed because the CCA refused to grant lawyers from the Texas Defender Service an extra 20 minutes due to a last-minute computer crash. Reported the Times:
The stay for the Texas execution was issued two days after the court did not stop Texas from executing another inmate, Michael Richard, leading to some confusion about its intentions.
Lawyers in the case on Tuesday said their appeal had been turned down because of an unusual series of procedural problems.
Professor Dow said the computers crashed at the Texas Defender Service in Houston while lawyers were rewriting his appeal to take advantage of the high court’s unexpected interest in lethal injection.
Because of the resulting delay, the lawyers missed by 20 minutes the 5 p.m. filing deadline at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, where the appeal had to go first before moving to the Supreme Court.
The Texas court refused their pleas to remain open for the extra minutes. Because the lawyers missed that crucial step, Professor Dow said, the Supreme Court had to turn down the appeal, and Mr. Richard was executed.
But on Thursday, with a more carefully crafted appeal for Mr. Turner, and the Texas court’s closely split rejection, the Supreme Court called a halt to another lethal injection.
One frequently hears complaints about criminals who receive leniency in the courts because of a "technicality," but in this case Michael Richard was put to death because of one. I know court deadlines are awfully strict, but I wonder if the CCA has ever granted a few extra minutes to a prosecutor whose computer crashed at deadline?
I might be less skeptical of the CCA's decision to not cut Michael Richard and the Defender Service a break if a majority of CCA judges hadn't chosen two days later to openly defy the US Supreme Court, causing SCOTUS to issue its own execution stay. Even after that, Texas plans to pursue more near-term executions, reported the Times:
“The Supreme Court’s decision to stay convicted murderer Carlton Turner’s execution will not necessarily result in an abrupt halt to Texas executions,” said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas. “State and federal courts will continue to address each scheduled execution on a case-by-case basis.”
I'm a little surprised that General Abbott would join the CCA majority to advocate continuing Texas executions after the Supremes' have stated their disapprobation. It's not like SCOTUS has been shy about slapping down Texas when the CCA tries to spite them. A lot of lawyers and judges in this state have grown tired of the CCA embarrassing Texas in the national legal eye; I'd think Abbott would want to distance himself from such an imbroglio.
Anyway, at this point the smart money probably banks on a de facto Texas moratorium (perhaps imposed straight up by SCOTUS) until the Kentucky litigation is resolved, but that doesn't mean Texas officials won't do everything in their power to get around it.