A Temporary Halt to Texas Executions?

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A state appeals court stay of an execution scheduled for Tuesday night may have put at least a temporary lock on the nation's busiest execution chamber.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a reprieve to Houston gang member Derrick Sean O'Brien. He was to die for the 1993 Houston torture-slayings of 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena.

Lawyers for O'Brien argued the drugs used to kill him "unnecessarily create a risk that O'Brien will suffer excruciating excessive pain during the administration of his lethal injection."

The US Supreme Court heard arguments in a Florida case last month that questions whether inmates can file special last-minute civil rights challenges to lethal-injection chemicals.

The Texas drug procedure is similar to the one in Florida -- but until yesterday's ruling similar appeals in Texas death penalty cases have failed. This was the first case to raise the question in the state courts.