Houston The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to give a Texas death row inmate a reprieve shortly after it agreed to consider the legality of lethal injections could mean a hiatus for the nation's busiest death chamber.
The court spared Carlton Turner Jr. late Thursday after his attorneys raised arguments that mirrored a Kentucky case, in which two condemned inmates contended the lethal injection procedure was unconstitutionally cruel.
"I think we're headed toward a moratorium, at least until the Supreme Court resolves the Kentucky case," University of Texas law professor Jordan Steiker said Friday. "I think now the course seems relatively clear that we are likely to have moratorium on executions for at least nine months, probably a year, until the court issues an opinion and provides definitive guidance."
Krista Moody, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said Friday that the governor still viewed executions as acceptable under Texas law.
The Texas execution procedure is virtually the same as the one in Kentucky. Three drugs are used - a sedative, a muscle-paralyzing drug and a drug that induces cardiac arrest. According to the appeal filed for Turner, if the first of the three drugs failed to knock him unconscious he would experience "excruciating pain and torture as the second and third drugs are administered."