The Jackson and Witherspoon decisions did not directly threaten government's right to kill; once the states adjusted their criminal procedure to conform to the new rules, they could continue to impose the death penalty. But the two decisions did prove that at least some Supreme Court Justices were prepared to take a hard look at the way men were condemned. As a result, it became somewhat easier to win postponements of impending executions.
Nevertheless, obtaining a stay of execution was still a tense, uncertain business. Lawyers were required to demonstrate ingenuity and persistence in finding a judge or a governor did not act, the judge would be forced to make a prieves. Trial judges had the habit of holding stay applications in abeyance until shortly before a scheduled execution in the hope that the governor would postpone it. If the governor did not act, the judge would be forced to make a decision himself. This might mean that he would deny the application with only days, or even hours, remaining. The result was a series of almost monthly mad cross-country scrambles, with secretaries typing legal papers long into the night and lawyers hurrying them to faraway appellate judges.
Until the two 1968 decisions increased LDF's leverage,