Supreme Court case on lethal injection means break in executions

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court is set to begin hearing arguments on the constitutionality of lethal injection.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, executions across the country have come to a standstill.

In Tennessee, three death row inmates have been granted stays of execution by federal judges.

The last person executed in this state was convicted child killer Daryl Holton in early September, but he was executed in the electric chair, not by lethal injection. Holton chose electrocution under a law that allows Tennessee inmates to chose that method if their crimes were committed before 1999.

He was one of forty-two people were executed across the U.S. in 2007, the lowest total in 13 years.

But the death penalty itself is not being challenged in the Supreme Court.

The justices will begin to hear arguments Monday on whether the possible pain caused by the lethal injection method used in about three dozen states amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

It will likely take time to examine the issue and executions are unlikely to begin again before the summer.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)