Today, the Supreme Court blocked the execution of Cleve Foster, a Desert Storm veteran convicted of the murder of a woman he'd met in a bar. Foster was supposed to be given a lethal injection in Texas tonight.
According to The New York Times, the reprieve "is based on whether [Foster] received adequate counsel during the course of the case, as well as questions related to his guilt."
The drugs the state would have used to execute Foster--a cocktail of pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride--have never been used in a Texas execution before. (Ohio and Oklahoma already use pentobarbital in lethal injections, though.) Texas used to use sodium thiopental, but then the manufacturer stopped making that drug, so the state switched over to the new combination.
It was a controversial choice from the beginning. These three drugs "have never been used together in clinical procedures," according to Clive Stafford Smith, director of the human-rights organization Reprieve. Raymond Bonner points out at The Atlantic that veterinarians in Texas are prohibited from using this combination of drugs to put animals to sleep.
If the cocktail doesn't work properly, says Stafford Smith, then during his execution, Foster will experience "excruciating pain that has been likened to having one's veins set on fire."
Foster has maintained his innocence for years, writing at one point that he was "on death row waiting to die for a crime another man has confessed to." He's referring to Sheldon Ward, who was convicted alongside Foster in 2004 and has since died in prison of a brain tumor.