Executions of Delaware's 19 death row prisoners could begin again after a federal appeals court rules the state's method of execution is constitutional.
A federal appeals court has ruled Delaware’s system of execution meets constitutional requirements and has lifted a stay on executions statewide.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced the decision in the case of Robert W. Jackson III v. Carl C. Danberg, et al, Feb. 1.
Jackson has been on death row since April 1993; Danberg is the commissioner of the Department of Correction.
In a statement released by his office, Attorney General Joseph R. Biden III said,
“The Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the District Court’s ruling that Delaware’s lethal injection protocol meets constitutional safeguards against cruel and unusual punishment.
“As a result of this ruling,” Biden added, “executions in Delaware will move forward, and the Superior Court can now begin to schedule executions as appropriate.”
Biden’s office provided no additional information on how the execution process will begin again.
Jackson, who was convicted in 1993 for the April 1992 killing of Elizabeth Girardi of Hockessin, filed his lawsuit in shortly before his scheduled 2006 execution, claiming the state’s method of lethal injection violated the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
In rendering its decision, the court noted Delaware’s new lethal injection procedures exceed those found in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which have been affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.
However, the justices also criticized how executions in the state had been carried out in the past, calling them “worrisome.”
“The record before us reflects an occasional blitheness on Delaware’s part that, while perhaps not unconstitutional, gives us great pause,” the justices wrote. “We remind Delaware not only of its constitutional obligation to ensure that the implementation of its new protocol does not run afoul of the Eighth Amendment’s proscription of cruel and unusual punishment, but also of its moral obligation to carry out executions with the degree of seriousness and respect that the state-administered termination of human life demands.”
Currently, Jackson is one of 19 individuals on Delaware’s death row.
Two inmates, Robert A. Gattis, 49, and Jermaine M. Wright, 38, have been on death row the longest, both having been sentenced Oct. 29, 1992.