[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday denied [order, PDF] a stay of execution for convicted DC-area sniper John Allen Muhammad [BBC profile], clearing the way for his scheduled execution [JURIST report] on Tuesday. Muhammad had filed an application for stay of execution as well as a petition for certiorari [texts, PDF] last week. The Court denied both the stay application and the petition for certiorari. Justice John Paul Stevens filed an opinion dissenting from the denial of a temporary stay, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor:
This case highlights once again the perversity of executing inmates before their appeals process has been fully concluded. Under our normal practice, Muhammad's timely petition for certiorari would have been reviewed at our Conference on November 24, 2009. Virginia has scheduled his execution for November 10, however, so we must resolve the petition on an expedited basis unless we grant a temporary stay. By denying Muhammad's stay application, we have allowed Virginia to truncate our deliberative process on a matter involving a death row inmate that demands the most careful attention. ...Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine [official website] is still considering Muhammad's request for clemency. Muhammad's execution is scheduled for 9:00 PM ET.
I continue to believe that the Court would be wise to adopt a practice of staying all executions scheduled in advance of the completion of our review of a capital defendant's first application for a federal writ of habeas corpus. Such a practice would give meaningful effect to the distinction Congress has drawn between first and successive habeas petitions. It would also serve the interests of avoiding irreversible error, facilitating the efficient management of our docket, and preserving basic fairness by ensuring death row in-mates receive the same procedural safeguards that ordinary inmates receive.
Muhammad was convicted of murder and sentenced [JURIST report] to death in Virginia in 2005 for his role in the DC-area sniper shootings [JURIST news archive]. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the Virginia death sentence in August, despite Muhammad's allegations of "nondisclosure of exculpatory information by the prosecution" and "ineffective assistance of ... trial counsel." Muhammad was also sentenced in Maryland in June 2006 to six consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole following his conviction [JURIST reports] by a Maryland jury of six counts of murder. Maryland prosecutors did not seek the death penalty but wanted a second conviction in case his earlier Virginia conviction [JURIST reports] was overturned on appeal.