In late September, the United States Supreme Court decided to take a case questioning the legality the lethal injection method of carrying out the death penalty. The day the Court announced its decision was also the day Texas inmate Michael Richard was scheduled to be lethally injected.
According to reports, Richard’s criminal defense lawyers scrambled to put together an appeal before the planned 6 pm execution. Unfortunately, the lawyers’ computer malfunctioned, and they were unable to print the document before the 5 o’clock closing of the TX Court of Criminal Appeals. Despite their requests, the court refused to remain open an extra 20 minutes so that the attorneys could file their appeal.
Richard was executed that night.
In reaction to this incident, nearly 300 Texas attorneys signed a petition demanding that the state accept appeals by emails–a practice common in much of the rest of the country. The state has ruled that it will accept emails in emergency cases, a decision that has led many to wonder why it was so long in coming.
Lawyers must also file paper documents by 9:30 the following morning. Since the Supreme Court’s decision to review the constitutionality of lethal injection, Richard has been the only inmate on death row executed.