MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama on Monday sought a new execution date for an inmate spared last week when the clock struck midnight before a divided U.S. Supreme Court said his lethal injection could proceed.
Justices on Friday lifted a stay that had blocked the execution of 46-year-old Christopher Lee Price, but the order came about 90 minutes after the death warrant setting the execution date automatically expired at midnight.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's office asked the state Supreme Court to quickly schedule a new lethal injection on April 25 or May 2 in the "interests of justice." The state asked to set aside a rule normally requiring 30 days' notice.
"Price has already had his execution set and erroneously delayed, he has been given more notice than other inmates in his position and more than enough notice to satisfy concerns of fairness and due process," the state wrote in the motion.
Price was convicted of murder in the 1991 stabbing death of pastor Bill Lynn.
A federal judge on Thursday stayed Price's execution scheduled for that evening to consider his challenge to the humaneness of the state's lethal injection procedure. Price had asked to be put to death by breathing nitrogen gas, a method the state has authorized but not yet used.
With a stay in place, Alabama announced about 30 minutes before midnight that it could not carry out the execution that night. The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 early Friday morning to vacate the stay, but the execution warrant had expired at midnight.
The majority order said Price had missed a deadline for selecting nitrogen as his preferred execution method and noted that his claim was filed late in the process.
In a dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer admonished court conservatives for overruling two lower court stays "in the middle of the night" without discussing it further at a morning conference.
"What is at stake in this case is the right of a condemned inmate not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment," Breyer wrote.