WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the execution of a man who drowned a woman in her bathtub a decade ago, granting a stay to a Florida death row inmate for the second time in a week.
The court, acting without its newest member, ordered Florida to stop the evening execution of Arthur Rutherford, who claims that the state's lethal injection procedure is cruel and unusual punishment.
The court's action came just as Florida was preparing to execute Rutherford and only a few hours after justices gathered privately for the swearing in of new Associate Justice Samuel Alito. Alito did not consider Rutherford's case.
Florida inmate Clarence Hill won a Supreme Court stay last week, after he had already been strapped to the gurney. Justices said they would use Hill's case to clarify how inmates may bring last-minute challenges to the way they will be put to death. Arguments are expected this spring.
The intervention in Rutherford's case was not a surprise because he also brought a late challenge to lethal injection.