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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ind. Decisions - Timberlake Execution Stayed [Updated]

Here is a copy of the order filed this morning by the Indiana Supreme Court, staying the execution of Norman Timberlake.

(Unfortunately, it is a scanned document, meaning one cannot reproduce quotations without totally retyping them.) [Note: Late this afternoon the Court posted a version with selectable text - access it here..]

The 5-page order is signed by Acting CJ Dickson, J Boehm and J Rucker.

CJ Shepard dissents with opinion: J Sullivan dissents with opinion in which CJ Shepard joins.

The majority opinion states in part that:

A recent development suggests that the Supreme Court of the United States may soon revisit and address the application of the Eighth Amendment to claims that mental illness bars execution. On January 5, 2007, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Panetti v. Drake. * * *

Timberlake's situation is sufficiently similar to Panetti's that a stay of Timberlake's impending execution is appropriate.

Here is the ILB entry on the Dec. 15, 2006 Supreme Court order declining Timberlake's petition and providing that an execution date would be set. The vote at that time was 3-2. It is Justice Dickson who has changed his vote in today's order staying the execution.

Here is a list of the earlier ILB Timberlake entries.

[More] The AP has coverage here in the Chicago Tribune.

I've seen no word yet on the bench trial that was to be held before federal Judge Richard L. Young at 9:30 today challenging the use of lethal injections.

[Updated at 11:53 am]
Jon Murray and Vic Ryckaert of the Indianapolis Star now have more extensive coverage of the order, including this:

In today’s Indiana Supreme Court decision, Chief Justice Randall Shephard and Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. dissented. Shephard wrote that previous court evidence has shown Timberlake is competent and that Timberlake’s demeanor in his Parole Board interview last week also does not suggest he is insane.

Attorneys for Timberlake and the Indiana attorney general are in U.S. District Court today for a hearing on a lawsuit arguing Indiana’s lethal injection procedures risk causing unnecessary harm.

Judge Richard L. Young will decide that case. Last week, in a separate case, Young ruled against Timberlake on the mental illness grounds.

Today’s Indiana Supreme Court decision noted Young’s hands were tied by a federal law that allowed him only to review the legal basis for the state court’s decision. But the state court can revisit its own decisions, Justice Brent Dickson wrote in the majority opinion.

[Still more] Retyped by ILB from p. 3 of today's order:
The potential harm in granting Timberlake a stay of execution and later finding out that the Supreme Court's decision in Panetti was inapplicable to Timberlake is minimal compared the irreparable harm in denying the stay of execution, allowing Timberlake to be executed, and possibly learning a few months later that Timberlake's execution may have violated a new Supreme Court interpretation of the Eighth Amendment to prohibit execution of a class of mentally ill persons that included Timberlake. In short, until Panetti is decided and it s effort on Timberlake's case can be determined, Timberlake's execution should be stayed.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 17, 2007 11:04 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions