Is there a death penalty moratorium now in place, the New York Times asks. The Supreme Court has granted two stays of execution and refused to vacate a third in the three weeks since it agreed to hear a challenge to Kentucky's use of lethal injection. Yesterday, the Georgia Supreme Court interpreted the justices' actions as a signal to suspend at least some executions. It granted a stay to Jack Alderman, who had been scheduled to die by lethal injection tonight night for murdering his wife 33 years ago. The top criminal court in Texas, a state that accounts for 405 of the 1,099 executions in the U.S. since 1976, has indicated that it will permit no more executions until the Supreme Court rules next spring.
Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, proclaimed “moratorium mojo” yesterday on his blog, Sentencing Law and Policy. But Elisabeth Semel, who runs the Death Penalty Clinic of Boalt Hall Law School at the University of California at Berkeley, said “it would be inaccurate and very presumptuous to call this a moratorium.” Rather, “what we're seeing is a combination of different courts, and different executives, deciding to be prudent” while waiting to see what the Supreme Court will do.