USA. FOLLOWING MORATORIUM TREND, COURT HALTS ALABAMA EXECUTION
October 24, 2007: aÂ federal appeals court panel unanimously ordered a stay of execution on for a terminally ill prisoner who was scheduled to die by lethal injection in Alabama on October 25.
Lawyers representing the prisoner, Daniel L. Siebert, 56, filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta after Judge Mark E. Fuller of Federal District Court in Alabama refused to stop his execution. Defense lawyers said the drug mixture used by the state could interact with Mr. Siebertâ€™s cancer medications and cause excruciating pain.
The three-judge appeals panel, following a pattern set by other courts in recent weeks, said the execution would have to wait until the Supreme Court decided in the coming months whether lethal injections violated Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Fifteen other states have adopted the same posture on lethal injections, in effect creating a moratorium on death sentences nationwide.
This week, Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, said Alabama could move forward with Mr. Siebertâ€™s execution because the state had made changes to its lethal injection procedure.
Officials said those changes largely amounted to checking whether a condemned prisoner was conscious after anesthesia had been administered by calling the prisonerâ€™s name, brushing a finger against the eyelashes and pinching an arm. The state did not change the chemicals or the order in which they are administered, said Brian Corbett, a public information officer with the Alabama Department of Corrections.
The appeals court panel described the changes as minor. Judges Rosemary Barkett, Gerald B. Tjoflat and Charles R. Wilson were on the panel.
Alabama officials said they planned to appeal Wednesdayâ€™s decision to the full 11th Circuit. The case could eventually reach the Supreme Court.
Mr. Siebert was sentenced to death for the 1986 murders of a 24-year-old woman and her two young sons. He received a second death sentence for the murder of their neighbor, who was killed the same night.
Mr. Siebert is expected to die of pancreatic cancer within a few months, possibly before the Supreme Court rules. Governor Riley has said he should die by execution, as determined by a jury, and not from cancer. (Sources: New York Times, 24/10/2007)