Eight months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court delayed the execution of Florida inmate Clarence Hill with just minutes to spare. The court said Hill should be able to challenge his execution through a civil rights lawsuit, a move that some scholars believed would tie up executions for months or years, reports the St. Petersburg Times. Lower courts quickly dismissed Hill’s claims that lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, prompting Gov. Jeb Bush to reschedule Hill’s execution for tomorrow evening. Experts say it’s unlikely that Hill will win another eleventh-hour reprieve. Still, the case has left a lasting impression on death penalty law and gives other condemned inmates more standing to challenge lethal injection.
Hill, 48, is on death row for the 1982 murder of a police officer. Hill claims that the three-drug cocktail used in Florida executions is cruel because it causes excruciating pain because a painkiller wears off before the process is complete. Prof. Robert Batey of Stetson University College of Law said it makes the legal system look bad to execute someone before all the issues are resolved. “I’m one who believes you should keep the defendant alive until you can resolve it, but the courts have become so frustrated with the delaying tactics of death row defendants that they simply refuse to grant stays any longer,” he said.