November 1, 2000

Judge Delays First Federal Execution Since 1963

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) --A U.S. federal judge in Pennsylvania postponed on Wednesday what would have been the first execution by the federal government in 37 years to give the inmate time to file an appeal. U.S. District Judge Malcolm Muir set aside the Nov. 15 execution date for David Hammer, who was convicted of murdering another inmate. He gave Hammer until Jan. 31 to file his appeal. If Hammer fails to appeal by then, the execution by lethal injection will be on Feb. 21, the judge said. Hammer was convicted of killing an inmate in 1996 while in a U.S. penitentiary in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. He was sentenced to death in 1998. Hammer is among the 19 inmates awaiting execution in a federal death-row prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said. With the delay in Hammer"s scheduled execution, another federal death-row inmate now moves to the top of the list of those waiting to be put to death. Convicted drug smuggler and murderer Juan Raul Garza is scheduled to die on Dec. 12 although President Clinton is considering Garza"s request for presidential clemency. A justice department spokeswoman said Hammer"s request for presidential clemency will be put on hold until he exhausts his legal appeals. The last federal execution occurred in 1963. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 struck down state death penalty laws, a ruling that also brought federal executions to a halt. In 1976, the high court reinstated the death penalty after the adoption of new procedures. It was not until 1988 that Congress adopted a new federal death penalty law, which was expanded in 1994 to cover a greater number of federal crimes.

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