(Joe Ravi, CC-BY-SA 3.0)This past Friday, the Supreme Court announced its decision to review a case on new lethal injection drug protocol used in death penalty executions.
The new procedure, only months old in practice, is similar to the old approach for lethal injection, but contains more of the "sedative midazolam" in the three part procedure of sedating, paralyzing, and stopping the heart. The Justices are looking to see whether this new procedure is considered "cruel and unusual punishment" (which is banned by the Constitution) since some previous injections have had claims of hurting or creating discomfort while being administered. Additionally, according to this article, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted testimony "indicating that the application of the paralytic drug might render midazolam ineffective but it would be impossible to know whether the inmate was conscious."
The last time the court examined a case on lethal injection was 7 years ago in the 2008 Baze v. Rees case, where they rejected a challenge to lethal injections, deeming "pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not [qualify] as cruel and unusual." While the majority of Justices (5) did not want to review another case on the Constitutionality of lethal injections, the four liberal members voted to accept the case. As we've learned in class, it only takes four of the court's nine judges to review a case, and thus will hear the case Glossip v. Gross in April and announce their decision this June.
Upon further research, I discovered that the main reason for this new sedative in the past few years was because the old substances used are simply harder to obtain now, since many European suppliers have stopped allowing American purchase of it for moral reasons. The US then scrambled to find new drugs in time. I also found out that this new dosage has been used in Florida in 11 executions since 2013, as well as in three other states. Out of the four states, 3 reported having problems with the drug and errors in administering it, which makes me believe that these drug may be an imperfect quick replacement to earlier drugs. Regardless of whether you morally believe in the death penalty or not, I think most can agree that this is a very serious situation that must be regarded more carefully.
1. Do you think this new drug is worthy of (re)evaluation in the Supreme Court?
2. While the majority of the Justices are against reviewing this case, the four that are seem to stand quite strongly with it. Do you have any predictions on the verdict?
3. What's your personal take on the Constitutionality of the new drug?