February 2, 2006

Alito parts with conservatives on execution

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Samuel Alito disagreed with the court's conservatives and
refused to allow Missouri to execute a man convicted of
kidnapping and killing a Kansas City teenager 17 years ago.

Alito sided with the majority in a 6-3 vote that rejected a
last minute request to allow Missouri to carry out the
execution of Michael Taylor, 39, by lethal injection at
midnight, a court spokesman said on Thursday.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and
Clarence Thomas voted to let the execution proceed.

The court's action was contained in a two-sentence order.
The state's request was presented to Alito, who has
responsibility for appeals from the U.S. appeals court based in
Missouri, and he referred the request to the full court.

Earlier on Wednesday, the court had issued orders that
would have allowed the execution to proceed.

Taylor pleaded guilty, along with an accomplice, to
kidnapping, raping and murdering 15-year-old Ann Harrison in
1989. The men abducted the girl as she waited for a school bus
in front of her home.

He has challenged his death sentence on the grounds that
the three-drug cocktail of lethal chemicals used in executions
carry the risk of undue suffering, violating the U.S.
Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Alito was sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court justice on
Tuesday, becoming the second conservative, after Chief Justice
John Roberts, put on the court by President George W. Bush.

Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate
conservative who had been the swing vote in a series of 5-4
decisions on social issues.

Alito has been expected to align himself with the court's
conservative bloc, which could affect the outcome of votes on
key social issues.

The way a justice votes on a stay request does not
necessarily signal how the justice will rule on the merits of a
death penalty case. The court earlier this week granted a
similar stay of execution to another death row inmate from

Last month, the court said it would use the case of a
Florida death-row inmate to decide whether last-minute
challenges can be brought under the federal civil rights law to
the drugs used in lethal injection.

The court appears to be holding cases that raise the same
issue until it hears arguments and rules on the issue, which is
expected by the end of June.