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Court stays Texas execution

Today the Supreme Court stayed the execution of Lester Leroy Bower, a Texas inmate who had been scheduled to die next week.  Nearly thirty-one years ago, Bower was convicted of the deaths of four men in an airplane hangar in Texas.  Bower – who has maintained his innocence throughout – filed a petition for certiorari in early September.  The Justices first considered his case at their January 9 Conference, but they relisted it three times, prompting Bower to seek a stay this week.  Bower’s request for a stay went first to Justice Antonin Scalia, who serves as the Circuit Justice for the geographic region that includes Texas.  Scalia referred the request to the full Court, which issued its order today.  There were no noted dissents from the order granting the stay, but the order indicated that the stay will automatically end if the Court eventually denies review.

In his petition for certiorari, Bower is asking the Court to consider:  (1) whether the sentencing procedures used in Texas at the time of his trial allow the jury to fully take into account mitigating evidence of good character; (2) whether a conviction aided by the failure of prosecutors to produce evidence that contradicted the state’s theory violates the Constitution; and (3) whether the execution of an inmate who has been on death row for more than thirty years violates the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.  Two of the Court’s current Justices, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer, have previously expressed concern about excessive delays in capital cases.

The Court will likely consider Bower’s petition again at the Justices’ private Conference on February 20.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Court stays Texas execution, SCOTUSblog (Feb. 5, 2015, 2:00 PM),