In a surprise move amid a flurry of legal filings, a federal appeals court has granted a request to delay Edmund Zagorski’s execution, which was scheduled for Thursday.
It remains unclear how the order, from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, will impact the execution’s timing — it is possible the U.S. Supreme Court could consider the stay Thursday and it could go forward as scheduled.
Zagorski asked federal courts to reconsider unexamined claims of ineffective trial counsel. The federal district court in Nashville rejected that argument Tuesday but a panel of 6th Circuit judges said the argument was provocative enough to merit full consideration.
To do that, they said, a stay was necessary.
"We acknowledge, as the district court did, that petitioner faces an uphill battle on the merits," the order stated. "Yet, balancing this factor with the others, petitioner’s motion presents conditions rarely seen in the usual course of death penalty proceedings."
One judge on the appeals panel disagreed.
"A state is entitled to the assurance of finality," Circuit Judge Deborah Cook. "Granting the stay shortchanges the State’s interests."
A separate request for a stay is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Tennessee's lethal injection protocol.
This is the latest in a series of legal wrangling over the method and timing of Zagorski's execution. Developments have come quickly throughout the day and more changes are possible.