The Supreme Court will decide next term if poor death row inmates have a right to lawyers paid for by federal taxpayers, reports the Associated Press. The justices will hear the case of Edward Harbison, who was convicted in the 1983 beating death of an elderly Tennessee woman. Federal appeals courts have taken different positions on the issue.
The Bush administration wants the court to decide that federal law for indigent capital defendants does not extend taxpayer support to state appeals. Harbison’s execution is on hold after a federal judge said Tennessee’s three-drug lethal injection method was cruel and unusual punishment because of the “substantial risk of unnecessary pain” to the inmate.