In a major death penalty ruling, the Supreme Court upheld 6 to 3 a new legal shortcut that could accelerate the pace of executions nationwide. Acting in the case of Thomas Barefoot, a Texas murderer who came within 11 hours of execution in January, the justices in essence ruled he did not deserve a last legal appeal and could have been put to death.
From now on, when an execution is imminent a federal appeals court may compress the time it usually takes to consider fully a prisoner's legal claims, give a hurried rejection, and let the execution take place on schedule. But if time before execution is so short the prisoner's claims cannot be argued and decided carefully, the court said, the execution should be postponed. Mississippi officials hoped to use the ruling imme- diately to clear the way for the execution of child-killer Jimmy Lee Gray.
. . . pension plan discriminatory
In a landmark sex-discrimination case, the justices ruled 5 to 4 that women must receive the same monthly retirement payments as men un- der employer insurance plans. The dispute involved a plan that made lower payments to women on grounds they would get their payments longer because women live longer on average than men.
. . . videotape ruling put off
In a surprising action as the high court concluded its 1982-83 term, the justices did not rule on the controversial Sony Betamax case involving home videotaping of TV shows. Without explanation, they set the copy- right controversy for reargument next term, which begins in October.
In other action, the justices:
- On a 7-to-2 vote, turned down two new challenges to the legislative veto, indicating it has settled at least for now the debate over Congress's power to check presidential actions. The cases dealt with a Federal Trade Commission rule ordering dealers to list defects on used cars and on natural gas pricing.
- Granted a request from the Reagan administration and issued an order blocking US tourist travel to Cuba until at least next fall.