Top Texas court is unlikely source of execution reprieves

Texas' highest criminal court has become an unlikely source for a lull in executions this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals historically has been seen as little more than a speedbump on a condemned inmate's road to the death chamber. Yet in recent weeks it's postponed punishments of four inmates whose execution dates neared.

Combined with two similar actions by the court earlier this summer, the six reprieves have led to a more than five-month hiatus in carrying out the death penalty in Texas. It's the longest pause in lethal injections in Texas in almost nine years.

While the Texas court's most recent postponements have come in quick succession, no common thread appears to suggest an ideological shift by the bench.