Speed Reads

death penalty

U.S. executes 8th inmate this year, after Justice Barrett, other Supreme Court conservatives lift stay

The U.S. government executed Orlando Hall on Thursday night for his role in the brutal murder, rape, and kidnapping of a 16-year-old Texas girl, Lisa René, whose brothers had crossed Hall in a drug deal. He was pronounced dead at 11:47 p.m. after being given a lethal injection cocktail at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was the eighth federal execution carried out this year, after Attorney General William Barr lifted a two-decade pause on federal capital punishment.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan had ordered a halt on Hall's execution while the court's considered his legal challenges, including that he was sentenced to death at the recommendation of an all-white Jury. Hall, 49, is Black, and the only one of the five people convicted for René's killing who was on death row. Chutkan also has concerns of the legality of the lethal injection drugs used.

The Supreme Court lifted the stay Thursday night, with the court's three more liberal justices — Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer — dissenting. This was the first capital punishment ruling for new Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and since she did not recuse herself or sign on among the dissenters, it's pretty clear she joined the court's other conservatives in approving Hall's execution. Barrett, like Barr and four of the other five conservatives, is Catholic, and her decision may allay concerns that her "dogma" would guide her legal actions, since opposition to the death penalty is a bedrock tenet of the Catholic Church's pro-life theology.