For John Allen Muhammad, the convicted DC sniper, execution is scheduled for Tuesday night. He was tried in Virginia, which is known for hearing appeals rapidly.
It has been almost six years since Mr. Muhammad was sentenced to death for the murder of Dean Meyers, one of the 10 people killed during apparently random sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area in September and October 2002.
With approximately 68 months between his sentencing and scheduled execution, Muhammad's case has taken roughly half the typical duration for death-penalty cases. Nationally, it takes on average 153 months – almost 13 years – between sentencing and execution for death-row inmates, according to 2007 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The Supreme Court noted the accelerated pace of Muhammad's execution in its decision Monday not to hear his case or delay his execution.
"By denying Muhammad's stay application, we have allowed Virginia to truncate our deliberative process on a matter – involving a death row inmate – that demands the most careful attention," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in a statement explaining the court's rejection of the Muhammad appeal. "This result is particularly unfortunate in light of the limited time Muhammad was given to make his case in the District Court."
The bulk of cases that move swiftly toward execution tend to be "consensual executions," Professor Radelet says, citing the case of Timothy McVeigh. He was executed in 2001, four years after his sentencing for the murder of eight federal agents in the Oklahoma City bombing. In 2000, a judge granted Mr. McVeigh's request to drop his remaining appeals and expedite his execution.