Supreme Court ruling removes possible barrier to Sequim man’s execution

PORT ANGELES — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that executions by lethal injection are not cruel and unusual punishment removes one potential barrier to the execution of a death row inmate from Sequim, legal experts say.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a Kentucky case in a 7-2 opinion Tuesday that lethal injection results in a painless death, if administered as intended. (Click on AP News at left for Associated Press coverage of the justices’ ruling.)

“If it had gone the other way, people might have appealed based upon it, since lethal injection is the primary form of administering the death penalty in this state,” said Janelle Guthrie, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office.

Darold R.J. Stenson, 55, was convicted of aggravated first degree murder in the March 25, 1993, shooting deaths of his wife, Denise Stenson, and their friend Frank Hoerner at the Stensons’ Sequim-area exotic bird ranch.

He is on death row in Walla Walla, where a total of eight await execution.

Stenson has a May 15 execution date, but he has not exhausted all his appeals.

His execution has been stayed pending a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state expects to hear from the court in October whether the case will be taken up.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly said Wednesday that she hadn’t reviewed the ruling issued Tuesday, but that it probably would remove one possible barrier to Stenson’s execution.

“I haven’t seen the case, but it certainly sounds like it would assist in clearing the way for Mr. Stenson’s execution,” she said.

“I would have to review it, but I assume that that would make it easier.”

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