New Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito, in his first decision, sided with the majority in blocking the execution of a Missouri inmate Wednesday evening, so that the inmate could challege the constitutionality of Missouri's use of lethal injection to execute condemned prisoners. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, John Paul Stephens voted to stay the execution; Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas voted to allow the execution.
The case, like two others recently from Florida, revolve a rather technical point on whether inmates can challenge the method of execution on constitutional grounds. It is way premature to see the court's ruling on Wednesday as evidence that the Supreme Court is about to abolish the death penalty.
It's also too early for conservatives to panic about Alito.