Stay of execution

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A stay of execution is a court order to temporarily suspend the execution of a court judgment or other court order. The word "execution" does not necessarily mean the death penalty (although it can); it refers to the imposition of whatever judgment is being stayed. It is similar to an injunction.

A stay can be granted automatically by operation of law or conventionally, when the parties in a civil or criminal case agree that no execution shall occur for a certain period.[1] If a party appeals a decision, any judgment issued by the original court may be stayed until the appeal is resolved.

Death penalty stays[edit]

In cases where the death penalty has been imposed, a stay of execution is often sought to defer the execution of the convicted person. This may occur if new evidence is discovered that will exonerate the convicted person or in attempts to have the sentence commuted to life imprisonment. In the United States, all death sentences are automatically stayed pending a direct review by an appeals court. If the death sentence is found to have been legally sound, the stay is lifted.

One example of a stay of execution in the death penalty context was the James Autry case. Autry was already strapped down to the execution table in Texas on October 4, 1983 when the order came to stop the execution. He was executed a few months later, on March 14, 1984.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey granted a stay of execution on November 19, 2013 in response to a motion by the lawyers of the convicted Joseph Paul Franklin that use of the drug phenobarbital in a lethal injection would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.[2] The following day, US Supreme Court upheld an appeal court's decision to lift the stay of execution. Franklin was put to death on November 20, 2013.

Another case is the case of Kho Jabing in Singapore. Kho, who was a Malaysian detained on death row for the capital murder of Chinese national Cao Ruyin, received a death warrant which ordered that his execution was to be carried out on 6 November 2015. Through his lawyer, Kho managed to suspend his execution while pending a newly filed last-minute appeal against his sentence. Earlier on, in 2013, while he had spent three years on death row for killing Cao Ruyin during a robbery in 2008, the changes to the law had officially abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder committed with no intention to kill and included an alternative sentence of life imprisonment with caning for such a crime, which gave all death row inmates to apply to reduce their sentences. Kho was eligible of such an entitlement and received a life sentence with 24 strokes of the cane. However, he was once again sentenced to death upon the prosecution's appeal to the higher courts of Singapore in early 2015, which was narrowly allowed by a majority vote of 3-2, as the majority of the judges found that the manner of killing demonstrated both viciousness and a blatant disregard for human life, which would be more appropriate to order Kho to be hanged rather than having him jailed for life.[3][4] After the suspension of Kho's execution, a few months later, in April 2016, Kho lost his appeal, as the Court of Appeal found there is little new material and evidence for the court to conclude that there is a miscarriage of justice in Kho's case when they made the decision to sentence the Malaysian to death, and not convincing enough for the court to reopen the concluded 2015 criminal appeal, which was coupled by the lawyers rehashing the old arguments made in the earlier court proceedings against him.[5] Later, a new date was set for the execution to take place, and it was released, with the death warrant ordering that Kho should be executed at dawn on 20 May 2016. However, this execution was once again postponed by another stay of execution granted in view of an appeal filed the night before Kho's execution. The appeal was thrown out the next morning due to the defence keep rehashing their old arguments and such an action amounted to an abuse of the court, which led to the judges strongly and critically reprimanding the conduct of Kho's lawyers. Shortly after the rejection of his final appeal, Kho was then hanged on the afternoon of 20 May 2016.[6]


  1. ^ "Legal Definition of Stay of Execution", fetched from [1] on 13 March 2009.
  2. ^ Matt Smith. "Judge grants stay of execution for serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin". CNN. Retrieved 2019-04-01.
  3. ^ Abu Baker, Jalelah (16 January 2015). "Murderer fails to escape the gallows: 6 other cases involving the revised death penalty laws". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Sarawak murder convict granted stay of execution after filing 11th-hour motion". The Straits Times. 5 November 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  5. ^ "Jabing Kho to hang after bid to commute sentence fails". Today Singapore. 2016-04-05. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Kho Jabing hanged after bid to defer execution fails, lawyers receive ticking-off from court". Today Singapore. 20 May 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2020.