Monday, April 08, 2002

Sweet Home Alabama...for a while longer

Supreme Court Halts Ala. Execution

MOBILE, Ala. - The U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) blocked the execution of Gary Leon Brown on Thursday about eight hours before he was to die in Alabama's electric chair for killing a man.

Brown, sentenced to die for the 1986 stabbing death of Jack David McGraw, contends electrocution is impermissibly cruel and unusual punishment. His defense also contends the execution should be halted until the high court rules in an Arizona case involving the way sentences are imposed.

The Supreme Court halted Brown's execution until the justices have time to consider his appeal. If the high court decides against accepting the appeal, the stay would be lifted and the execution date reset. If it accepts the appeal, the execution would be halted indefinitely.

Alabama had four executions scheduled last year and all four were blocked by the courts for various reasons.

The Supreme Court agreed earlier this year to hear a case from Arizona that asks whether a judge instead of a jury can decide whether a convicted killer deserves the death penalty. In Alabama, the jury recommends death or life without parole, but the judge is not bound by the recommendation.

Brown's appeal moved before the nation's highest court after the Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously rejected it.

Alabama and Nebraska are the only two states still using electrocution as a method of execution. Alabama's executions are carried out at Holman Prison in an electric chair known as "Yellow Mama" for its garish color.