The Law: Waiting for Death

During the summer, Texas prison officials decided that the time had come. They installed a new wiring system in "Old Sparkey," the state's natural-oak electric chair. The electric chairs in Georgia and Florida were also rewired and got other minor repairs. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for their return to use. On the first day after the summer recess, the nine Justices announced that they would not reconsider their ruling of last July upholding the constitutionality of capital-punishment murder statutes in the three states.* The Justices forthwith lifted a stay that had been in effect since July,...