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Nebraska high court stays electrocution to weigh constitutional concerns

[JURIST] The Nebraska Supreme Court [official website] issued an order [PDF text] Wednesday staying the execution of Carey Dean Moore [Amnesty profile] while the court determines whether death by electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment. In a 4-3 decision, the Court noted that recent US Supreme Court decisions have raised the question whether electrocution is constitutional and hence the court's "responsibility to decide whether electrocution is lawful requires us to consider whether any convicted person should be electrocuted before that question is answered." Nebraska adopted a new electrocution method in which first, a single 20-second, 2,450-volt jolt is used then officials wait 18 minutes to determine if an inmate is still alive, and administer a second jolt if needed. The court issued the stay after Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers [official profile] requested that the death penalty process be reviewed before anyone else is put to death. Moore was scheduled to die Tuesday for the murders of two Omaha cab drivers in 1979. Nebraska is the only state to solely rely on the electric chair for capital punishment; its last execution was in 1997. AP has more.

The lethal injection [JURIST news archive] method of execution has also received its share of scrutiny in recent months. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen issued a moratorium on executions [executive order, PDF; JURIST report] in February and directed the Tennessee Commissioner of Corrections to conduct a comprehensive review of the manner in which death sentences are administered; Bredesen accepted revised death penalty protocols [JURIST report] on Monday, clearing the way for executions to resume in the state. A North Carolina state judge issued an injunction [JURIST report] in January blocking two executions until Governor Mike Easley issues new procedures to execute capital defendants without the presence of doctors. Capital punishment has also been suspended in Florida, California, and Maryland [JURIST reports]. An increased number of states have begun to review the administration of the death penalty following the botched execution of Angel Diaz [Amnesty profile] in December 2006.

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