The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals delayed today’s scheduled execution of a Houston gang member for the torture-slaying of two teenage girls and may have put a temporary lock on the nation’s busiest execution chamber, reports the Associated Press. The order blocked the execution of Derrick Sean O’Brien for the 1993 killings of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16. O’Brien, 31, contended that the drugs scheduled for use in executing him “unnecessarily create a risk that O’Brien will suffer excruciating excessive pain during the administration of his lethal injection.”
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last month in a Florida case that questions whether inmates can file special last-minute civil rights challenges to the chemicals used in lethal injection even if inmates have exhausted all their regular appeals. A decision is expected by July. “It closes the death chamber door,” said Dianne Clements of the Houston-based victims rights group Justice For All. “There’s no door open except more appeals.” An indication of the ruling’s impact could come quickly. Texas is scheduled to execute another inmate, Jermaine Herron, tomorrow.