The Stay papers in Derrick Sonnier’s case are now available:
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed tonights execution in Texas of Derrick Sonnier. It appears, without talking to people on the ground in Texas, that the Texas stay may effectively stay all other executions for the next month (or more). I’ll be rolling this update. [more here]
The Court of Criminal Appeals granted the stay after attorneys for the Texas Defender Service took up Derrick Juan Sonnier’s case in the last few days. The length of the stay has not been determined.
The 40-year-old was sentenced to die for the 1991 stabbing deaths of Melody Flowers, 27, and her 2-year-old son, Patrick.
The Texas Defender Service submitted an appeal arguing that the state recently made changes to its three-drug cocktail protocol. The changes have not been reviewed by any court. The second appeal also contends the lethal injection protocol violates the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. That contention has not been addressed by Texas courts after a Kentucky decision.
Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the protocol had not changed. Prison officials, however, made changes to internal written procedures in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on lethal injection in April, which upheld the procedure used in Texas and dozens of other states.
The state, for example, added the minimum amount of training executioners receive.
“We clarified in writing what we were already doing,” Lyons said, “The protocol remains the same.”
If the execution had occurred, Sonnier would have been the first Texan to be put to death since September, when the Supreme Court took up a Kentucky case that challenged the constitutionality of the lethal injection process. Sonnier had been scheduled to die in February, but prosecutors set aside that date to await the high court’s ruling.