Supreme Court To Take Up Lethal Injections With Oklahoma Case

24 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Justices to Hear Case Over Drugs Used in Executions.

The U.S. It is taking up a case brought by three death row inmates, who accuse the state of violating the US Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide a case on the constitutionality of the new combinations of drugs that some states are using to execute prisoners and that critics say cause intense suffering. Supreme Court has agreed to review Oklahoma’s system for execution — the first time it’s taken up such a case since rejecting a challenge to lethal injections in 2008. The justices agreed Friday to review whether the sedative midazolam can be used in executions because of concerns that it does not produce a deep, comalike unconsciousness and ensure that a prisoner does not experience intense and needless pain when other drugs are injected to kill him. With the addition of this case, the court’s term seems likely to end with three major decisions — on same-sex marriage, on the fate of the Affordable Care Act and, now, on the administration of capital punishment.

It takes only four of the nine justices to agree to hear a legal claim, but a majority of five is needed to issue a ruling, including stopping an execution. It’s going to put a stamp on what’s allowable and what’s not.” The Oklahoma inmates’ lawyer said in a statement that execution protocols have changed so much since the sweeping 2008 ruling that the high court needs to weigh in. “The time is right for the Court to take a careful look at this important issue, particularly given the bungled executions that have occurred since states started using these novel and experimental drugs protocols,” attorney Dale Baich said. The inmates challenging the state’s procedure argue that the sedative used, midazolam, cannot achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery and is therefore unsuitable for executions. In Warner’s case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor worried that it had not been proven that the state’s new procedure was valid, following a botched effort in the execution last year of Clayton Lockett. “Petitioners have committed horrific crimes, and should be punished,” Sotomayor wrote. “But the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no one should be subjected to an execution that causes searing, unnecessary pain before death. As a result, it appears the liberal justices voted to the hear the case, even though conservatives stood firm in their position that the drug is legal.

Nine months ago, the botched execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma put the issue of lethal injections under a spotlight and even triggered a federal review of execution protocols. I hope that our failure to act today does not portend our unwillingness to consider these questions.” She was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G.

In the 2008 challenge, opponents claimed if a state failed to properly inject the first of the three drugs then commonly in use, an inmate was left awake but paralyzed, in intense pain but unable to cry out. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University. “The court’s decision to address the confusion at last is welcome.” The case the court agreed on Friday to hear, Glossip v.

In its ruling, the court said that some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution and that opponents of lethal injection failed to show another method would be clearly more humane. Since 2008, states have had trouble obtaining some of the drugs that were given the green light — largely because manufacturers refuse to sell them for the purpose of execution. The execution procedure involves three drugs: Midazolam, which is intended to render the prisoner unconscious, before the injection of a paralytic followed by the injection of a heart-stopping agent. Midazolam featured in two other problematic executions that took longer than expected and left the convicts gasping: Joseph Wood in Arizona and Dennis McGuire in Ohio.

Some states have switched to midazolam because companies making the traditionally used barbiturates, which have a longer track record and deeper anesthetic properties, have refused to provide them for executions. Challengers say midazlolam can’t maintain “a deep, coma-like unconsciousness” and has no pain-relieving properties, setting the stage for an excruciating death caused by the other two drugs — a paralytic and a heart-stopper. The inmates are trying to stop their executions, arguing that the state would essentially be experimenting on them by injecting them with unproven and untested drugs. Since then, however, Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona have carried out apparently botched executions in which the inmates seemed to writhe in pain or took hours to die.

Another Oklahoma prisoner and plaintiff in the case, Richard Glossip, who was convicted of a 1997 contract murder, is scheduled for execution on Thursday. “Our immediate concern now is to try to get a stay for Mr. Inmate Clayton Lockett clenched his teeth, moaned, and writhed on the gurney before a doctor noticed a problem with the intravenous line and the execution was called off. At that time, every state was using the same three-drug combination, which the lawyers in Baze conceded was humane if administered properly,” he said. “Today, states are not using that 3-drug protocol and instead are using experimental drug combinations. Medical experts testifying on behalf of the inmates at an evidentiary hearing said the effects of high doses of midazolam, which Oklahoma adopted, were too unpredictable to justify its use.

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