Darold Stenson, 55, of Sequim, has one appeal fewer to challenge his spot on death row after an April 16 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on lethal injection. Stenson was convicted in 1994 by a jury in Clallam County Superior Court for the crimes of premeditated murder in the first degree of Denise Stenson, his wife, and Frank Hoerner, a business associate.
Although Stenson had not appealed his death sentence in regard to the legality of lethal injection, he could have, effectively delaying his execution even longer than he already has.
Stenson was waiting for a Supreme Court decision on his case when justices ruled in a Kentucky case that execution by lethal injection does not violate the Constitutions ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
This ruling will not have a direct impact on Mr. Stensons case, said Janelle Gutherie with the state attorney generals office. Had the ruling gone the opposite direction it could have had an impact, giving him another avenue of appeal.
Stensons current appeal regarding trial evidence and police warrants is likely be one of his last, according to experts.
John Samson, assistant attorney general, said Stenson is running out of opportunities to stay his execution. He said if the Supreme Court does not accept Stensons appeal he will be virtually out of options.
He can possibly file a challenge for review, but there is a ban on second successive challenges, Samson said, indicating the court would decide whether the potential challenge would qualify as a duplicate. Other than that, he could seek clemency from the governor.
Stensons execution was scheduled for May 15, but the state suspended the date while the Supreme Court reviewed the appeal. A decision is expected by October of this year.
As for the other seven people on death row, the lethal injection decision will have no effect on their cases, except one. Dayva Michael Cross, who pleaded guilty in King County in 2000 to three counts of aggravated first-degree murder, had an appeal that challenged the constitutionality of lethal injections, which likely will receive a decision similar to the Kentucky case.
While justices of the Supreme Court ruled that lethal injection did not violate the Eighth Amendment in a 7-2 vote, some indicated it would not end the controversy surrounding capital punishment in general.
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