The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution of a long-time death row inmate so justices could have time to consider questions that he raised about his method of execution, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. The court had asked to review briefs raising the question of whether Thomas Arthur could argue for an execution method not explicitly authorized in state law. Arthur’s lawyers also filed a challenge to Alabama’s death-penalty sentencing scheme, saying it was unconstitutional based on a Supreme Court ruling in January. The justices did not appear to address the sentencing challenge but granted the stay to give them time to consider his challenge to the execution method.
Arthur’s lawyers said he should be allowed to proposed alternative methods of execution, such as a single-dose of pentobarbital or firing squad, which he said would be more humane than the current lethal injection methods. Arthur, first sentenced to death in the early 1980s, has outlived seven execution dates. Arthur’s execution was delayed just hours before it was to take place yesterday. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that he did not believe the request “meets our ordinary criteria for a stay” but granted it as a courtesy because four other justices sought it. None of justices who voted for the stay explained their reasons. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted to deny it. The court said the stay would expire if they voted to deny review.