Arizona supreme court halts execution over legal appeal

Death row inmate Timothy Sequeira, 56, was to be put to death for second time in just over a decade

Death row inmate Timothy Sequeira, 56, was to be put to death by lethal injection on Tuesday night for a second time in just over a decade after a successful intervention by state officials.

Early on Tuesday morning, the Arizona supreme court imposed a stay on the death penalty after it received a last-minute appeal from Sequeira’s attorneys.

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In 2012, the inmate was due to be executed by injection of pentobarbital but his request to have the drug itself killed by firing squad was rejected on the grounds that it could be ineffective in lethal injections.

After years of appeals, the court agreed on Tuesday morning that his most recent request for an execution with an alternative method of execution should be granted.

Sequeira first appealed to the supreme court in 2002 for the right to have the injection drug itself fired up, but the court decided not to hear his second appeal that same year, which also raised the possibility of execution by holding the executioner accountable.

“It’s not clear that a firing squad has the ability to accurately identify his heart, which leads us to believe that an execution by firing squad would not be as painless or as efficient as an execution by lethal injection,” stated an Arizona court.

The court also said that it had “significant concern with the prospect that an individual firing squad cannot manage the task of precisely shooting a bullet”.

Sequeira was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Tuesday evening in Florence, Arizona, but lawyers from the Death Penalty Clinic argued that it would be illegal to do so since his original date, 29 June 2012, was set five years after the 40-hour time period prescribed for appeals had passed.

The court responded by agreeing to hear a new appeal, which was agreed on Tuesday.

Despite the appeal being approved, not all lawyers seem confident of a reprieve being granted to Sequeira.

“Timothy Sequeira’s case had a flawed trial that never addressed the purpose of his lethal injection,” said Randy Ahrens, an attorney for Sequeira who helped challenge Arizona’s lethal injection protocol.

Sequeira was convicted for the 1995 murder of Ana Rebecca Palomares, an electrical engineer who disappeared in Palm Springs, California while visiting her family. Her body was found in woodland near Madera, California.

Sequeira admitted to the murder in 1995, but his defense attorneys said his confession was coerced. They argued he was mentally ill and suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder caused by exposure to sex abuse when he killed Palomares.

In 2002, the supreme court ruled that the Arizona death row inmate’s case could proceed to court, but that courts in other states did not have the authority to hear similar cases of mental illness due to the lawsuit brought by Sequeira.

Sequeira is one of six inmates scheduled to be executed this week. There are 158 inmates on death row in Arizona and 13 inmates scheduled to be executed in 2017.

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