The US Supreme Court [official website] voted Tuesday to stay the execution [JURIST news archive] of convicted murderer Cleve Foster [Texas Department of Criminal Justice profile; case materials] until it decides whether to grant his petition for certiorari. Foster, a former Army recruiter, denies allegations [AP report] that he shot and killed a 30-year old woman in 2002 and then hid her body in a ditch. Foster claims that he was convicted due to ineffective assistance from his lawyer and that a blood-splatter test would exonerate him. Foster's petition to the Supreme Court follows orders by judges in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] dismissing Foster's petition for habeas corpus [order materials] and denying a motion to reconsider its refusal to hear Foster's habeas claim. Foster's execution had been scheduled for Tuesday night. There is no word on when the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear Foster's case.
Controversy has surrounded the use of the death penalty in the US. On Tuesday, Illinois' state senate voted to abolish the death penalty [JURIST report] in that state after the Illinois House voted to do the same [JURIST report] last Friday. It is not clear, however, whether Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will sign the bill into law. Last August, the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia [official website] heard a habeas petition from Troy Davis who was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering an off-duty Savannah, Georgia, police officer. In a rare move, the federal court heard the habeas petition after Davis had exhausted his state remedies under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act [text], but the court sided against Davis saying that he failed to prove his innocence. Law Offices of the Southern Center for Human Rights [advocacy website] Executive Director Sarah Totonchi argues [JURIST commentary] that "'Troy Davis' case illustrates that U.S. courts simply cannot provide the certainty necessary to impose an irreversible punishment; therefore the death penalty must be abolished."