UPDATE: With the US Supreme Court decision allowing #ChristopherPrice‘s execution, and the AL death warrant for Price running out, the State has to wait at least 30 days for the State Supreme Court to set another execution date & issue another death warrant.
This essentially means that the AL State Supreme Court will be able to set a new execution date for Christopher Price after May 12th, 2019, and then have the execution either later in May or the first half of June. Also, the last-minute appeals process could essentially start over again, at the Southern District of Alabama federal court. In other words, stay tuned, there’s much more to come.
Christopher Price was set to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday for the 1991 killing of a minister in Fayette County, but the execution was called off about half an hour before Price’s death warrant expired at midnight.
An order from the U.S. Supreme Court that says the execution could go forward was issued shortly before 2 a.m. Friday, but it was too late for the state to carry it out because of the expired death warrant. The state will now have to set a new execution date.
In a 5-4 decision the U.S. Supreme Court denied Price’s request for a review of his appeal and for the stay of execution. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent, joined by three other justices, objecting to the overruling of decisions by a federal judge and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the execution.
The order came after several appeals Thursday, beginning with Price’s attorneys filing an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction to a federal judge in Mobile asking her to halt the execution around 1 p.m.
Just before 4 p.m. Thursday U.S. Southern District Court Judge Kristi DuBose stayed the execution for 60 days. She wrote the state had until May 10 to submit evidence in contradiction to Price’s contention that the three-drug execution protocol will cause or is likely to cause him severe pain and that execution by the new method – nitrogen hypoxia – will significantly reduce the substantial risk of severe pain.
The AG’s Office appealed to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed DuBose’s ruling and kept the stay in place.
The Attorney General’s Office on Thursday night then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying in part that Price had not met a deadline for signing up for the new execution method.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office in its order issued Friday morning. The majority opinion stated that Price essentially waited too late. “In June 2018, death-row inmates in Alabama whose convictions were final before June 1, 2018, had 30 days to elect to be executed via nitrogen hypoxia … Price, whose conviction became final in 1999, did not do so, even though the record indicates that all death-row inmates were provided a written election form, and 48 other death-row inmates elected nitrogen hypoxia. He then waited until February 2019 to file this action and submitted additional evidence today, a few hours before his scheduled execution time.”
At 11:34 p.m.—when the nation’s highest court had yet to rule—the state called off the execution. A statement from the ADOC said, “As a practical matter, the time remaining before the expiration of the death warrant does not permit sufficient time to accomplish the execution in accordance with established procedures.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement after the announcement was made. “Tonight, in the middle of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn was deprived of justice. They were, in effect, re-victimized by a killer trying to evade his just punishment. This 11th-hour stay for death row inmate Christopher Price will do nothing to serve the ends of justice. Indeed, it has inflicted the opposite—injustice, in the form of justice delayed.”
Marshall said Price “has dodged his death sentence for the better part of three decades by employing much the same strategy he has pursued tonight—desperately clinging to legal maneuverings to avoid facing the consequences of his heinous crime. I can promise you this: Alabama will never forget victims. Justice will be had for Pastor Lynn and his family. As for Christopher Price, his day of justice will come.”
Samantha Banks, an ADOC spokesperson, said Price’s last request was to be married to his fiancée. He was married Wednesday in the visitation yard at Holman.
Price was visited by his wife, an aunt, and an uncle on Thursday. Wednesday, he made four phone calls to attorneys, one to his wife, and one to an aunt.
Price refused his breakfast but asked for and received two pints of turtle tracks ice cream for what he believed would be his final meal. Several people from Price’s family planned to witness his execution, including his wife, two aunts, an uncle, and a cousin.
Six witnesses from the victim, Bill Lynn’s, family, also were present to witness. Those witnesses would have been the victim’s wife Bessie Lynn, the couple’s two daughters, two grandsons, and Bill Lynn’s brother.
Price had requested that no spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber, so the spokesperson said the department’s Christian chaplain was not set be inside the chamber.
The 46-year-old inmate was denied a stay of execution by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, after appealing a lower court’s ruling that also denied him a stay based on his argument he wanted to be executed by Alabama’s newly approved method of nitrogen hypoxia. He appealed Thursday morning to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay.
No Alabama inmates have been executed by the new method, and a state protocol for the nitrogen hypoxia executions has not been developed yet.
Price was set to die by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. He was convicted in the 1991 robbery and slaying of Lynn and was sentenced to death by a jury’s vote of 10-2. A judge upheld the jury’s recommendation and sent Price to death row.
Price had asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in March for a stay of execution, arguing the Alabama Department of Corrections’ three-drug lethal injection cocktail could cause Price severe pain during his execution. The inmate also claimed the state’s refusal to allow him to elect the nitrogen hypoxia method denies him equal protection under the Constitution.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office claimed in a response filing Price was given the forms necessary to elect a change of execution method from lethal injection to nitrogen hypoxia last summer, when all other inmates on death row were given the same opportunity. The state says Price neglected to make that election and called the current lawsuit a “meritless delay tactic.”
The state’s response states, “Price had timely notice, Price could have asked counsel if he wanted a legal consultation, and yet Price sat on his hands for seven months until the State moved to set his execution date.”
Early last year, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill giving inmates the option to choose execution by nitrogen hypoxia. According to the state, inmates waiting to be executed were allowed to opt in the nitrogen method if they wished, but had to do so within a 30-day period in June 2018. Of the 177 inmates on Alabama’s Death Row, more than 50 inmates have chosen to die by the new method.
ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the department is working with the AG’s Office to develop a protocol for executions by nitrogen hypoxia, but has no timeline on when that protocol might be finalized and ready to implement.
One of Price’s attorneys argued in a filing the ADOC allowed some inmates to choose nitrogen hypoxia in a manner that was “completely arbitrary” and “created two classes of death row inmates.”
The state said in its response they were rational to set a timeline for the inmates to opt into the new method, because otherwise an inmate “could change his mind as to his method of execution up until the moment he entered the death chamber. In other words, conceivably, the ADOC could prepare for a lethal injection but be blindsided by an eleventh-hour nitrogen election.”
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Kristi DuBose denied the stay of execution and noted Price did not elect to choose nitrogen hypoxia by the cutoff date and that the gas is not readily available since the state has not yet developed a protocol for those types of executions. She is the same judge who Thursday granted a 60-day stay.
Price’s attorneys appealed that ruling. Wednesday afternoon, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals also denied the stay.
Price also was at the center of a lawsuit in 2014 with similar claims, which sought to block the state from setting his execution date because of what he called “prolonged, excruciating and needless pain” caused by the lethal injection drugs.
Lynn, a minister at Natural Springs Church of Christ, was fatally stabbed with a knife and sword outside his home in the Bazemore community three days before Christmas in 1991. Court records state Lynn was putting together Christmas presents for his grandchildren, when the power went out. He walked outside to check the power box when he was attacked.
Records state Lynn suffered 38 cuts, lacerations, and stab wounds, and one of his arms was almost severed. He died en route to a local hospital. His wife, Bessie Lynn, was wounded in the attack but survived her injuries.
Price, of Winfield, was 19 at the time and was arrested in Tennessee several days after the slaying. He was convicted in 1993.
(Reporting by AL.com)
Here is the order from the U.S. Supreme Court and the dissenting opinion from four justices:
SCOTUS Order by on Scribd
Alabama Seeks New Execution Date For Death Row Inmate Spared By The Clock
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is seeking a new execution date for an inmate who was spared last week when the clock struck midnight before a divided U.S. Supreme Court said the lethal injection could proceed.
The state on Monday asked the Alabama Supreme Court to schedule an execution for 46-year-old Christopher Lee Price.
A federal judge postponed Price’s lethal injection last week. The high court overturned the stay, but the decision came about two hours after the warrant scheduling his execution automatically expired at midnight.
The state asked the court to set an execution on April 25 or May 2 in the “interests of justice” and set aside a rule requiring 30 days’ notice.
Price was convicted in the 1991 stabbing death of pastor Bill Lynn.
Alabama Death Row Inmate Granted Stay of Execution, 11th Circuit Upholds District Court Stay
NOTE: For the latest update on Christopher Price’s execution, go to this newest update.
UPDATE: Alabama has decided to file an emergency motion at SCOTUS to vacate the 11th Circuit/Southern District of Alabama stay.
Alabama is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to let it proceed with the execution of an inmate convicted of a pastor’s stabbing death.
Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike Lewis, said Thursday that the state is asking justices to lift a stay maintained by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Inmate Christopher Lee Price was scheduled to receive a lethal injection for the 1991 stabbing death of pastor Bill Lynn.
A federal judge on Thursday night stayed the execution to weigh Price’s claim that lethal injections have been “botched” and execution by nitrogen hypoxia is a viable alternative. An appellate court maintained the stay, citing jurisdictional questions.
Alabama has authorized execution by nitrogen hypoxia, but has not used it to carry out a death sentence.
The state has contended Price is only trying to delay his execution with the last-minute legal filings.
To carry out the execution Thursday night, the state would have to get the stay lifted before midnight.
Read the emergency filing below:
BREAKING—The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has upheld the district court’s grant of a stay of execution for #ChristopherPrice. “In light of the jurisdictional questions raised by the parties’ motions, we stay Price’s execution until further order of this court,” the court wrote.
UPDATE: The Southern District Court of Alabama has issued a stay in the case of Christopher Price for SIXTY days, or until the 11th Circuit or the US Supreme Court reverse the Southern District’s ruling.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama inmate is citing a study theorizing that death by nitrogen would be painless as he seeks to stop his upcoming lethal injection.
The last-minute legal filings came hours before Christopher Price is scheduled to receive a lethal injection for the 1991 stabbing death of a pastor.
Forty-six-year-old Christopher Lee Price is scheduled to receive a chemical injection Thursday evening for his conviction in the death of Bill Lynn. The 57-year-old pastor was killed in a Dec. 22, 1991, robbery while preparing Christmas gifts for his grandchildren. Prosecutors said Lynn was at his Fayette County home when power was cut and the pastor went out to check the fuse box and was killed.
Lynn’s wife testified she looked out a window and saw a person dressed in black in a karate stance, holding a sword above her husband’s head. An autopsy showed that Lynn had been cut or stabbed more than 30 times.
Attorneys on Thursday asked a federal judge in Alabama to issue an injunction, arguing the study backs up the idea that nitrogen hypoxia is a viable alternative.
Alabama has authorized the use of nitrogen for executions but has not used it.
His attorneys filed the study done by medical professors after an appellate court ruled he had not shown nitrogen hypoxia will reduce the risk of pain.
The study was done for a lawmaker in Oklahoma which has also authorized the use of nitrogen for executions.
Read the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that led to Price’s attorneys filing with the US Supreme Court below:
Whenever the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or the US Supreme Court responds to Price’s certiorari petition, this post will be updated.
Texas Bans Clergy From Executions After US Supreme Court Ruling
DALLAS (AP) — Texas prisons will no longer allow clergy in the death chamber after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the scheduled execution of a man who argued his religious freedom would be violated if his Buddhist spiritual adviser couldn’t accompany him.
Effective immediately, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will only permit prison security staff into the death chamber, a spokesman said Wednesday. The policy change comes in response to the high court’s ruling staying the execution of Patrick Murphy , a member of the “Texas 7” gang of escaped prisoners.
Texas previously allowed state-employed clergy to accompany inmates into the execution chamber, but its prison staff included only Christian and Muslim clerics.
In light of this policy, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Texas couldn’t move forward with Murphy’s punishment unless his Buddhist adviser or another Buddhist reverend of the state’s choosing accompanied him.
“The government may not discriminate against religion generally or against particular religious denominations,” the court’s newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, wrote in a concurring opinion.
Murphy’s attorneys told the high court that executing the 57-year-old without his spiritual adviser in the room would violate his First Amendment right to freedom of religion. He became a Buddhist almost a decade ago while incarcerated.
One of those lawyers, David Dow, said the policy change does not address their full argument and mistakes the main thrust of the court’s decision.
“Their arbitrary and, at least for now, hostile response to all religion reveals a real need for close judicial oversight of the execution protocol,” Dow said
Kristin Houlé, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, called the new policy “cruel and unusual,” and urged the department to reconsider.
Prison chaplains will still be able to observe executions from a witness room and meet with inmates on death row beforehand, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel. He declined to elaborate on the reasoning behind the policy change.
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