Christopher Brooks, an Alabama man scheduled for execution by lethal injection appealed [text, PDF] to the US Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday for a stay of execution on the grounds that the sentencing procedure is unconstitutional. Brooks was sentenced to death [AL report] for the burglary, rape and murder of a young woman. He argues that Alabama’s sentencing scheme is unconstitutional pursuant to the recent decision [JURIST report] in Hurst v. Florida [text, PDF] which held that Florida’s capital sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment [text]. The Supreme Court of Alabama [official website] and the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] have denied [text, PDF] the request for a stay. If the stay is not granted, Brooks is scheduled to die by lethal injections at 6:00 PM on Thursday.
Use of the death penalty [JURIST news archive] has been a controversial issue throughout the US and internationally. The US Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled [JURIST report] in Kansas v. Carr [opinion, PDF] that a jury in a death penalty case does not need to be advised that mitigating factors, which can lessen the severity of a criminal act, do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt like aggravating factors. Last month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the authority [JURIST report] of Governor Tom Wolf to postpone executions in the commonwealth. In October the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously granted [JURIST report] a request from Attorney General Scott Pruitt to halt all of the state’s scheduled executions to allow for an investigation into why the prison received incorrect lethal injection drugs. Oklahoma became the epicenter [JURIST report] of the lethal injection drug debate in 2014 after the death of Clayton Lockett, a death row inmate who died of an apparent heart attack minutes after doctors called off a failed attempt to execute him. Last June the US Supreme Court held that the use of the drug midazolam may be used in executions [JURIST report] without violating the Constitution.