2007: Not Earl Wesley Berry … for the time being

Minutes before he was to die this day last year, the lethal injection of Mississippi murderer Earl Wesley Berry was stayed by the Supreme Court — the signal that it had imposed a de facto moratorium on executions while it considered the constitutionality of lethal injection.

Condemned to die for kidnapping and beating to death Mary Bounds in 1987, Berry was your basic unappealing death row case with no particular issue either substantive or technical likely to help him out in the courts.

Luckily for Berry, the fundamental issue of whether whether the lethal injection regime used in Mississippi and in most of the United States was cruel and unusual punishment had reached the high court at just time time.

Also luckily, the phone lines were open: Berry got his reprieve with about 15 or 20 minutes to spare.

Berry’s stay finally clarified a few weeks of uncertainty that prevailed after the Court took last year’s lethal injection challenge, Baze v. Rees.

Could executions still go forward while lethal injection was under review? Would the holdup be limited to Kentucky, where the appeal originated? Was there any manner of case-by-case flexibility?

Berry was the bellwether. The execution-friendly Fifth Circuit Court let Berry’s scheduled date go ahead, making the hapless killer “the last best chance for prosecutors to restart executions this year [2007].”

But Earl Wesley Berry’s luck was only about seven months long: he was executed on May 21, 2008, the second prisoner put to death after the moratorium expired upon the Court’s rejection of Baze.

On this day..

One thought on “2007: Not Earl Wesley Berry … for the time being

  1. Pingback: ExecutedToday.com » 2007: Michael Richard, whose time ran out

Comments are closed.