US Supremes uphold the use of lethal injection

Posted by: ST on April 16, 2008 at 11:36 am

Reuters reports:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a challenge to the lethal three-drug cocktail used in most U.S. executions during the past 30 years.

By a 7-2 vote, the high court rejected a challenge by two Kentucky death row inmates who argued the current lethal injection method violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment by inflicting needless pain and suffering.

“We too agree that petitioners have not carried their burden of showing that the risk of pain from maladministration of a concededly humane lethal injection protocol, and the failure to adopt untried and untested alternatives constitute cruel and unusual punishment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court’s main opinion.

Death penalty opponents argued the condemned prisoner can suffer excruciating pain, without being able to cry out, if given too small a dose of the anesthetic.

[…]

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented.

Lyle Denniston at the SCOTUSBlog explains the ruling:

In a widely splintered decision, the Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for death-row executions to resume across the country, concluding that the most common method of lethal injection does not violate the Constitution. The final vote was 7-2 in Baze v. Rees (07-5439), although there was no opinion that spoke for five or more Justices. The Court’s plurality adopted as a standard for assessing the validity of an execution method whether it poses a “substantial risk of serious harm.” It rejected the death row inmate’s proposal that the standard be “unnecessary risk.”

Three Justices definitely supported the new standard, but four disagreed with it, in whole or in part. One Justice was silent on the point, and the other said the key issue was not one standard or another, but “facts and evidence” about a given state’s execution method.

While the opinion appeared to leave open a chance that some further challenges could be made to the use of lethal drugs under a specific procedure in another state, it rejected a challenge to the method as used in Kentucky which is fairly close to the protocol used in 36 states and by the federal government. The opinion also appeared to mean that the three drugs now used in all of those jurisdictions do not, alone or in combination, fail the Court’s new standard. What might still be in issue is the actual process that a state uses to administer those drugs, monitor the inmate’s condition, and complete the execution.

If defense lawyers do now mount new challenges, they will have to seek new court orders delaying specific executions, because the Supreme Court had not issued a formal moratorium on executions, even though — as a practical reality — it had not allowed any scheduled execution to occur while it was considering the Baze case. Thus, states would be free to schedule new execution dates.

Justice John Paul Stevens, joining the result only, called for the Court now to consider whether the death penalty in general is unconstitutional — an issue that was not before the Court in the Baze case. Stevens wrote: “The time for a dispassionate, impartial comparison of the enormous costs that death penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits that it produces has surely arrived.”

Make sure to read the whole thing.

The full SCOTUS ruling can be read here.

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10 Responses to “US Supremes uphold the use of lethal injection”

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  1. Justice John Paul Stevens, joining the result only, called for the Court now to consider whether the death penalty in general is unconstitutional — an issue that was not before the Court in the Baze case. Stevens wrote: “The time for a dispassionate, impartial comparison of the enormous costs that death penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits that it produces has surely arrived.”

    Typical of a liberal jurist: the only constitutional questions they can rule on are whether a verdict and sentence were reached in accord with the constitution, and whether a penalty violates the “cruel and unusual” clause. Considering the societal costs of death-penalty litigation is a policy matter for Congress and the state legislatures, not for would-be policymakers in black robes. :-w

  2. Hank says:

    I do not believe in the death penality, I feel if my country being Australia can live without so can the USA, If a person committs murder then is put to death isnt the person carrying out the execution also committing murder, He or she is taking a life, I would suggest maybe these judges try the lethal injection then come back and pass their opinion. How many people have been wrongly convicted and given the death sentence, I bet the numbers are staggering, But people dont really care about statistics do they?

  3. Lorica says:

    Statistics have been known to be wrong too. How many murderers have been ‘proven’ not guilty, and gone on to murder again. I think the only thing cruel and inhuman about the death penalty is the length of time it takes. But what really amazes me, is how the people who have no problem stopping an innocent baby’s heart thru abortion, have a problem with stopping the heart of a murderer. Ironic isn’t it?? It really doesn’t make any sense. – Lorica

  4. NC Cop says:

    How many people have been wrongly convicted and given the death sentence, I bet the numbers are staggering, But people dont really care about statistics do they?

    Excellent point, Hank, perhaps you could provide those statistics, because without them, your point is moot.

  5. NC Cop says:

    I would suggest maybe these judges try the lethal injection then come back and pass their opinion.

    And I would suggest that the anti-death penalty people have a loved one gang raped and then beheaded and then tell me about the compassion or “guilt” they would have for the culprit if he were executed.

  6. forest hunter says:

    Apart from the fact that your government is on hold with the capital punishment, If stats are your only reason for not eradicating the scourge of the worst mankind has to offer, then consider the stats that show where liberal judges turn out criminals who commit lesser crimes only to escalate into murdering basturds.

    After the horrific Bali bombings of October 2002, the Howard government authorised the AFP to collect evidence and statements and to subpoena witnesses to assist in the conviction and sentencing to death of the Bali bombers.

    There are many cases where execution is not only justified or even mandatory but absolutely and unequivocally REQUIRED to eliminate that particular threat PERMANENTLY. No amount of bleeding heart mentality will stop the blight of humanity from carrying on business as usual.

    :-w

  7. Just to add a data point, a 2003 study by researchers at Emory University showed that each execution deterred an average of 18 murders. That is, an average of 18 lives were saved for each murderer executed. Death penalty opponents should explain why those 18 lives should be put at risk by sparing a murderer. :-?

  8. Sparkey says:

    I say an eye for an eye. You kill, you die.
    Is this the scourge of mankind? I don’t think so. The action is fair and balanced. It is simple justice.

  9. Lorica says:

    How much you want to bet this woman is anti-capital punishment???

    For senior, abortion a medium for art, political discourse
    Martine Powers
    Staff Reporter
    Published Thursday, April 17, 2008
    Art major Aliza Shvarts ’08 wants to make a statement.

    Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/24513

    What a horribly deceived individual. How could a woman ever look into the face of any child she might bear later in life, and no weep for these little babies. Yet some persons think this is minimal compared to taking the life of a person who has murdered. Such deception. – Lorica