The system used to execute 66 people in Missouri in 17 years is under court challenge. And Michael Taylor is still alive, because of it. Taylor was to be executed at a minute past midnight Wednesday morning for the 1989 rape and murder of a 15-year-old Ann Harrison of Kansas City. The first halt to the execution came at about 11:30pm Tuesday as State Corrections Director Larry Crawford announced that procedures had been stopped for appeals court review. Lawyers for Taylor and the state kept busy that night, early morning and the next day filing papers and arguing their case before appellate courts. Taylor has claimed that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment; a violation of the constitution. Witnesses for the state and for the condemned gathered at the prison in Bonne Terre at 4 o’clock Wednesday, awaiting the execution then scheduled to proceed after a stay issued by the St. Louis Court of Appeals expired. The court issued another stay at 4:30pm and plans again came to a halt. Prison officials then prepared for an execution at 8 o’clock. At 9:20pm, witnesses for the state heard light applause in the adjoining room, the room in which Taylor’s family and friends sat, and a few minutes later, Crawford entered the state witnesses waiting room and announced the execution had been scrapped, the death warrant would expire and Taylor would be returned to the prison in Potosi. The US Supreme Court split on Taylor’s appeal with new Justice Samuel Alito siding with Taylor and turning down Missouri’s last-minute request to allow the execution to proceed. Alito had been assigned to handle emergency appeals from Missouri as well as other states. An appeals court will now review Taylor’s claim about lethal injection, a claim also raised by two Florida death-row inmates that won stays from the Supreme Court in the past few days. The court has agreed to use one of the cases to clarify how inmates may bring last-minute challenges to the way they will be put to death.
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