- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2007

Two prosecutors in Texas, the nation’s leader in executions, said yesterday that they will wait for a Supreme Court decision on lethal injection procedures before asking judges to set execution dates for death row inmates.

Roe Wilson, who handles death penalty appeals for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in the Houston area, said she also plans to ask a judge to withdraw the Feb. 26 execution date for a man convicted of killing a woman and her 2-year-old son.

“It seems the common-sense thing to do at this point,” Miss Wilson said, with the Supreme Court indicating that most, if not all, executions will not go forward while it considers lethal injections in a case from Kentucky.

Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza said he asked a judge to cancel a Jan. 24 execution for the same reason.

“It just seemed to me that the writing was very apparent,” Mr. Garza said. “Now we’ll let them rule, and we can come back in and act accordingly.”

In Texas, dates for executions are set by trial judges, typically at the request of local prosecutors. Twenty-six of the nation’s 42 executions this year have been carried out in Texas. No other state has had more than three.

Texas plans no more executions in 2007 after federal and state judges stopped four death sentences from being carried out.

The high court halted an execution in Mississippi Tuesday. The reprieve for Earl Wesley Berry, minutes before he was scheduled to die, was the third granted by the justices since they agreed in late September to hear the Kentucky case.

The decision brought an emotional response from about two dozen members of the victim’s family, who called a press conference to express their outrage.

“Now you want to tell me that we got a fair shake today?” said Charles Bounds, whose 56-year-old wife, Mary, was kidnapped from a church and killed by Berry in 1987. “Please don’t ever let that man out of prison, ‘cause you’ll have me, then. … I’ll kill him.”

Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Antonin Scalia would have allowed the execution to go forward.

Berry was convicted in 1988. His confession was used against him during the trial.

The Supreme Court has allowed only one execution to go forward since agreeing to hear the Kentucky case, which it is likely to hear before its July recess. Michael Richard was executed on Sept. 25 in Texas, the same day the court said it would hear a lethal injection challenge from two death row inmates in Kentucky.

State and lower federal courts have halted all other scheduled executions since then, putting the nation on a path toward the lowest annual number of executions in a decade.

The court will consider whether the mix of three drugs used to sedate and kill prisoners has the potential to cause pain severe enough to violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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