Alabama Halts Executions Until Supreme Court Settles Lethal Injection Case

03/19/2015 08:31 pm ET | Updated Mar 19, 2015

A federal judge has ordered Alabama to stop executions until the U.S. Supreme Court rules whether the method of lethal injection the state uses is cruel and unusual punishment.

The state agreed "the best course of action is to stay decisions on the lethal injection cases across the board" until the Supreme Court decides an appeal by condemned Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip, U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins wrote in a five-page order Wednesday. Glossip is challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol, which is similar to Alabama's.

Watkins' order came in response to a complaint filed by condemned murderer Tommy Arthur. The judge said six other Alabama death row inmates have filed similar lawsuits.

Alabama's first execution of 2015 had been scheduled for Thursday, the first in more than a year. Last month, the state Supreme Court stayed the execution of William "Bill" Kuenzel, 53, who was sentenced to die in 1988.

Wednesday's order additionally stays the executions of Gregory Hunt, set for April 16, and Robin Myers, set for June 18.

Alabama has not carried out an execution since 2013, because of a shortage drugs used in lethal injection.

The lethal injection protocol used by Alabama has led to at least three botched executions, in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona.

This week, Alabama state representatives passed a bill that would bring back the electric chair as an execution method if the drugs become unavailable or are ruled unconstitutional, United Press International reports.

The U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in Glossip's case on April 29. A decision is expected by the end of June.

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    South Carolina Department of Corrections
    NAME: Edward Lee Elmore
    STATE: South Carolina
    RELEASED IN 2002

    In 1982, Dorothy Edwards of Greenwood, South Carolina, an elderly white woman beloved by her community, was brutally murdered and raped in her home. Edwards' neighbor offered up Elmore, her handyman, as the perpetrator of the crime, even as he maintained his innocence. Elmore was arrested, went to trial 82 days later, and received a death sentence -- a conviction that he received three times as appeal courts overturned each verdict. The case was riddled with bad (even planted) evidence, an incompetent defense, a tainted crime scene, and police coverups. He spent 29 years on death row until his defense argued that he was mentally disabled and legally could not be executed, so he was reduced to a life sentence. In 2002 -- 29 years later -- he pled guilty to murder in exchange for release.

    Check out CNN's original series "Death Row Stories" (Sundays 9pm ET/PT) for a deeper look into this case.
    NAME: Krishna Maharaj
    STATE: Florida

    One-time millionaire and business magnate Kris Maharaj was convicted on two counts of murder in 1987. The case was plagued by covered-up evidence, false eyewitness accounts, and a shoddy defense (who didn't call any of his many witnesses to the stand as a "tactical" maneuver). Clive Stafford Smith has worked on this case for years, and in 2002, succeeded in commuting Maharaj’s death sentence to a life term following serious misconduct on the part of the judge and prosecution. Smith continues to fight for Maharaj's release, saying: “It is unfathomable to most rational people that the US Supreme Court says that innocence is not a reason to set a prisoner free. That Kris has spent 10,000 days in prison for a crime he did not commit is little more than legal kidnapping.”

    Check out CNN's original series "Death Row Stories" (Sundays 9pm ET/PT) for a deeper look into this case.
    Florida Department of Corrections
    NAME: Manuel Valle
    STATE: Florida
    EXECUTED: 9/28/11
    LAST MEAL: Fried chicken breast, white rice, garlic toast, peach cobbler and a Coca-Cola.

    Manuel Valle killed a police officer in Coral Gables, Florida, in 1978 after being stopped for a traffic violation. In the dissenting opinion of Valle v. Florida, Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer stated that the inmate's long stay on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. He said, "I have little doubt about the cruelty of so long a period of incarceration under sentence of death."
    Georgia Department of Corrections
    NAME: Jack Alderman
    STATE: Georgia
    EXECUTED: 9/16/08
    LAST MEAL: Did not request a last meal. Ate regular prison meal of baked fish, peas, cole slaw, carrots, cheese grits, bun, fruit juice and chocolate cake.

    Jack Alderman was convicted in 1975 of killing his wife, Barbara Jean Alderman. At the time of his execution, he was the longest-serving death row prisoner who had been executed in the United States.
    Texas Department of Criminal Justice
    NAME: David Lee Powell
    STATE: Texas
    EXECUTED: 6/15/2010
    LAST MEAL: Four eggs, four chicken drumsticks, salsa, four jalapeno peppers, lettuce, tortillas, hashbrowns, garlic bread, two pork chops, white and yellow grated cheese, sliced onions and tomatoes, a pitcher of milk and a vanilla shake.

    In May 1978, Powell fatally shot 26-year-old Austin police officer Ralph Ablanedo 10 times after he and his girlfriend were pulled over for missing a rear license plate. The two were on the way to a drug deal at the time of the crime. Opponents to his execution cited his exemplary behavior in prison and argued that he was no longer a threat to society, which is a legal requirement for capital punishment. Thirty-one years, three trials, and multiple appeals later, he died by lethal injection.

    He spent the longest time on death row of anyone in Texas since the state resumed death penalty executions in 1982.
    NAME: Gary Alvord
    STATE: Florida
    EXECUTED: Died of brain tumor in 2013

    In 1974, Gary Alvord was sentenced to death for strangling three women in their home in Tampa, Florida after he escaped from a mental hospital. Although Alvord faced execution several times, his history of mental illness prevented the sentence from being carried out. Last year, after 43 years on death row, he died of natural causes. In the time he spent awaiting execution, 74 other inmates were sent to their deaths. Bill Sheppard, who represented Alvord, has said: “Gary is a product of a sick system. He was a living example of why we should not have the death penalty.... I would love for the state of Florida to tell us how much money they wasted trying to kill a guy they couldn't kill."
    Death Penalty Information Center
    NAME: Reginald Griffin
    STATE: Missouri

    Reginald Griffin was implicated in the 1983 stabbing death of a fellow inmate at the Moberly Correctional Center in Moberly, Missouri, where he was serving time for an armed assault conviction. He along with two other inmates were charged with capital murder in 1987. There was no physical evidence linking Griffin to the crime, and in subsequent trials, the two inmates who served as witnesses for the prosecution in were offered benefits to testify. In 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court found that the state had withheld critical evidence and overturned Griffin's conviction. In 2013, all charges were dismissed. Upon his release, Cindy Short, one of his attorneys, said: "We humans are flawed, and those flaws have led to wrongful arrests, wrongful convictions and, unfortunately, this situation where time and time again you see prosecutors holding onto cases, even when evidence of innocence is clear."
    NAME: Michael Selsor
    STATE: Oklahoma
    EXECUTED: 5/1/12
    LAST MEAL: Kentucky Fried Chicken’s crispy two breast and one wing meal with potato wedges and baked beans, a chicken thigh, apple turnover, two biscuits and honey, salt, pepper and ketchup.

    In 1975, Michael Selsor shot gas-station clerk Clayton Chandler six times during a robbery in Tulsa, Oklahoma along with his accomplice, Richard Eugene Dodson. Although he was tried by a jury and sentenced to death in 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court and Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the death penalty unconstitutional later that year. Selsor's conviction was overturned by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1996; however, his 1998 retrial ended in another death sentence. After 36 years, Selsor was executed in Oklahoma by lethal injection.
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