Executing Equity: The Broad Judicial Discretion to Stay the Execution of Death Sentences
Stays of executions of sentences are equitable remedies provided to defendants to allow them full and fair consideration of their sentences. The courts’ exercise of their power to stay executions is often crucial for the proper administration of justice. However, courts do not employ bright-line rules when evaluating petitions to stay the execution of sentences. Rather, the power to grant or deny stays lies in the exercise of each court’s judgment. As a result, decisions that can affect a person’s life and liberty are left to the discretion of the courts. This broad discretion granted to courts has resulted in unpredictable procedures and results and has further resulted in seemingly unjust and inconsistent sentences. Thus, the current system employed by courts in the United States to evaluate petitions to stay executions does not consistently provide defendants with the full and fair consideration to which they are entitled pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.