Roiled by internal dissent over its handling of a previous execution appeal, Texas’ highest criminal court yesterday blocked the next scheduled execution, signaling a temporary halt for the nation’s busiest death chamber, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Heliberto Chi was scheduled to die tonight for the 2001 killing of a store manager.
Instead, he became the second Texas inmate to win a court-ordered reprieve while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the method of lethal injection used in Texas and three dozen other states violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court last week blocked another execution. “It seems clear, based on the actions (by the two courts), that executions will be on hold for the next several months,” said Andrea Keilen of the Texas Defender Service. The Chi ruling came as new details emerged about the Texas court’s refusal to stay open past 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 so lawyers could file an appeal on behalf of death row inmate Michael Richard.