[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday stayed the execution [order, PDF] of Alabama death row inmate James Harvey Callahan "pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari." Callahan had been scheduled to be executed at 6 PM CST on Thursday. The stay will terminate automatically if Callahan's petition for certiorari is denied. A district judge blocked Callahan's execution [opinion, PDF] in December, pending the Supreme Court's decision in Baze v. Rees [JURIST report], but the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit lifted the stay [opinion, PDF] earlier this week after finding that Callahan had filed his constitutional challenge to Alabama's execution procedures after the statue of limitations had expired. AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.
Callahan would have been the first prisoner to be executed since September 2007, when the Supreme Court granted certiorari to hear Baze v. Rees. In that case, the Court is considering whether the three-drug lethal injection cocktail [DPIC backgrounder] now used in over 30 states violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Since the US Supreme Court accepted the Baze case in September, courts have stayed executions in several states, including Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida [JURIST reports].