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Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Two prosecutors in the state of Texas, the U.S. leader in executions, said Wednesday they will wait for a Supreme Court decision on lethal injection procedures before asking judges to set execution dates for death row inmates.
Roe Wilson, a district attorney who handles death penalty appeals for the Houston area, said she also plans to ask a judge to withdraw the Feb. 26, 2008 execution date for a man convicted of killing a woman and her 2-year-old son.
“It seems the common sense thing to do at this point,” Wilson said, with the Supreme Court indicating that most, if not all, executions will not go forward while it considers lethal injections in a case from state of Kentucky.
Another district attorney in Texas, Henry Garza, said he asked a judge to cancel a Jan. 24 execution for the same reason. “It just seemed to me that the writing was very apparent,” Garza said. “Now we’ll let them rule and we can come back in and act accordingly.”
In Texas, dates for executions are set by trial judges, typically at the request of local prosecutors. Twenty-six of the 42 U.S. executions this year have taken place in Texas. No other state has had more than three.
Texas plans no more executions in 2007 after federal and state judges stopped four death sentences from being carried out.
The high court halted an execution in Mississippi Tuesday. The reprieve for Earl Wesley Berry, minutes before he was scheduled to die, was the third granted by the justices since they agreed in late September to hear the Kentucky case.
The decision brought an emotional response from about two dozen members of the victim’s family, who called a news conference to express their outrage.
“Now you want to tell me that we got a fair shake today?” said Charles Bounds, whose 56-year-old wife, Mary, was kidnapped from a church and killed by Berry in 1987.
“Please don’t ever let that man out of prison, ’cause you’ll have me, then. … I’ll kill him,” he said.
Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia would have allowed the execution to go forward.
Berry was convicted in 1988. His confession was used against him during the trial.
The Supreme Court has allowed only one execution to go forward since agreeing to hear the Kentucky case, which it is likely to hear before its July 2008 recess. Michael Richard was executed in Texas on Sept. 25, the same day the court said it would hear a lethal injection challenge from two death row inmates in Kentucky.
State and lower federal courts have halted all other scheduled executions since then, putting the U.S. on a path toward the lowest annual number of executions in a decade.
Berry asked for a delay at least until the court issues its decision in the Kentucky case. He claimed the mixture of deadly chemicals Mississippi uses would cause unnecessary pain, constituting cruel and unusual punishment.
Kentucky’s method of lethal injection executions is similar to procedures in three dozen states. The court will consider whether the mix of three drugs used to sedate and kill prisoners has the potential to cause pain severe enough to violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Associated Press writer Holbrook Mohr in Parchman, Miss., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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