[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday night halted [order, PDF] the execution of Missouri death row inmate Ernest Johnson pending the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] on Johnson’s appeal. Johnson’s attorney argues[appeal, PDF] that his client will suffer undue pain and a seizure from execution by lethal injection as he has a slow growing tumor in his brain. Although Johnson underwent surgery in 2008 [IBT report], 20 percent of his brain tissue also had to be removed, and he has suffered from seizures in the past. Johnson was convicted of killing three people in a convenience store robbery and was scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.
Use of the death penalty has been a controversial issue throughout the US in 2015. In a recent JURIST op-ed, guest columnist John Bessler discussed new changes in the evolution of capital punishment [JURIST op-ed]. Last week a judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah denied an appeal [JURIST report] by 74-year-old death row inmate Ron Lafferty to place a hold on his federal case to challenge his execution by firing squad. In September an Oklahoma appeals court granted an emergency stay of execution [JURIST report] for inmate Richard Glossip several hours before he was scheduled for his sentence. In June the US Supreme Court held that the use of the drug midazolam may be used in executions [JURIST report] without violating the constitution. In April the Tennessee Supreme Court had postponed the execution [JURIST report] of four inmates on death row while it determines whether current protocols are constitutional, effectively halting all executions in the state. Also in April, the Delaware Senate voted to repeal the death penalty [JURIST report], but the legislation includes an exemption for the 15 inmates currently on death row.