For the second time in a week, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Florida execution, potentially halting the state’s death penalty for months, the St. Petersburg Times says. Arthur Rutherford was set to be executed at 6 p.m. last night for the 1985 murder of a woman. A few minutes after 6 p.m., the high court ordered the state to stop the execution. Last week, the high court also halted the execution of Clarence Hill, condemned for killing a police officer during a bank robbery. The court wants to review whether inmates are entitled to a last-minute civil rights argument against lethal injection.
“Right now, I would think this is a pretty strong signal that executions in Florida may not occur until the Hill case is decided,” said Martin McClain, an attorney for Rutherford. Death warrants are signed by the governor. Last week when the high court blocked the Hill execution, Gov. Jeb Bush, who promised during election campaigns to quicken executions, was frustrated. At the Florida State Prison, 21 witnesses had gathered for the execution. As in Hill’s case, dark brown drapes covered windows separating the witness room from the execution chamber.