As Adam Liptak reminds us in the New York Times, it takes only four justices to agree to hear a case but five to issue a stay of execution. So while the justices agreed to hear the Oklahoma challenge against capital punishment, the lead petitioner in the case, a convicted murderer named Charles Warner, was actually put to death on January 15th. He fell one vote short of having his execution date put off.
The case once known as Warner v Gross is now called Glossip v Gross, named for Richard Glossip, another Oklahoma prisoner and the new lead petitioner. Yet Mr Glossip is now scheduled to die this Thursday, which could make the late-April oral arguments in his case rather moot. As the inmates’ lawyer put it in a response to the court on Monday: If no stay is ordered, Petitioners will be executed before the Court has a chance to review the merits of their case. Petitioners’ brief on the merits is due on March 9—which is four days after the last of the three scheduled executions.
The three petitioners may die before the Supreme Court decides if they should live.
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