A dramatic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution of a Florida inmate could temporarily halt lethal injections throughout the country until at least April, says the Orlando Sentinel. The high court decided yesterday to hear an argument by convicted killer Clarence Hill that his civil rights would be violated by Florida’s lethal-injection method because inmates suffer pain during the procedure. “This is a stunning and very welcome development that puts on hold all Florida executions and may well put a timeout on all lethal-injection executions in the United States,” said Abe Bonowitz of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Hill was moments from being executed — strapped to a gurney with intravenous lines inserted and witnesses waiting Tuesday night — when he won a temporary stay from Justice Anthony Kennedy. The full court confirmed the stay of execution yesterday. Although a lower court ruled that Hill had exhausted his appeals, the Supreme Court decided to hear his argument that Florida’s cocktail of lethal drugs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Most states that employ lethal injection use the same combination of drugs. The case was set for oral argument April 26. There are 368 inmates on death row in Florida. Hill’s case is nearly certain to block a scheduled execution next week.