Alabama Inmate Denied Stay of Execution by Supreme Court

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The US Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for Alabama inmate Christopher Lee Price on Thursday. Price was convicted and sentenced to death after he murdered a pastor in 1991.

The Supreme Court had first denied the stay in April over the objections of the court’s more liberal wing. Price argued that the state’s use of lethal injection violated his Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and requested to be executed with nitrogen gas instead. Justice Stephen Breyer, in his dissent, argued that the court ought to have waited to discuss the matter in their private conference before handing down a decision.

After his execution was rescheduled, Price petitioned the court again earlier this May and the Court denied certiorari. In a separate statement joined by Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Clarence Thomas disputed Breyer’s prior dissent and argued that Price’s petition had no legal merit and was merely an attempt to delay his execution.

Price petitioned the court once more this week for a stay on the grounds that a trial on the unconstitutionality of lethal injection was set for this June and his execution should thus be delayed until that matter could be resolved. The court again denied Price’s petition and Breyer issued a separate statement in dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and joined in part by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan. Breyer argued that the trial should be allowed to go forward and closed his dissent by calling on the court to reconsider the constitutionality of the death penalty.

After the court denied the stay, the state executed Price on Thursday night. In a statement, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall expressed his hopes that Price’s death would comfort his victim’s family:

Tonight, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn, who was brutally murdered nearly 30 years ago, has finally seen Lynn’s killer face justice. … Christopher Price, dodged his death sentence for the better part of three decades by employing much the same strategy he has pursued today and tonight: desperately clinging to legal maneuverings to avoid facing his just punishment. In the end, justice got the last word.

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