Nevada man's execution halted at 11th hour

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The execution of a prisoner in Nevada was suspended just 90 minutes before the execution was to be carried out due to arguments from civil rights activists who believe that the state should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of death bylethal injection.

34-year-old William Castillo was sentenced to death after beating 86-year-old Isabel Brendt to death in 1995. He was convicted of murdering the retired Las Vegas schoolteacher in 1996.

Mr. Castillo was due to be executed at 8:30 p.m. PDT (0330 GMT) but was granted a reprieve after an 11th hour appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Castillo chose not to file any appeals on his own behalf and prison officials say that he was prepared for death. The ACLU of Nevada had appealed to halt all executions in the state.

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An overwhelming legal uproar over death by lethal injection has compelled the U.S. Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of a method of execution for the first time since 1878, while also halting capital punishment throughout the country.

Almost all of the 38 states which employ the death penalty rely on the same three-drug combination to execute inmates, including Nevada. In California, opposition to lethal injection has halted executions for nearly two years. The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to determine the constitutionality of Kentucky's lethal injection procedure has ensured a near-abeyance on executions until the justices make their ruling next year.

Howard Skolnik, the Nevada Corrections Director, said Castillo was disappointed when he told him about the delay.

"He asked if it would be possible to get a little more medication to calm him down and take the edge off," the director said.

When speaking of the two members of Brendt's family hoping to witness the execution, Skolnik said "They were hoping for some kind of closure today which they did not get."

One of the ACLU lawyers who pleaded the case Monday in front of the Supreme Court supported the decision, which had been signed by all seven justices.

"Clearly, this was the right thing to do, legally and morally," Lee Rowland said. She added "...We are heartened that this decision will bring Nevada in line with the rest of the country, which has decided to await guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court."


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