Supreme Court takes close, contested look at lethal injection drug - Catholic Courier

Supreme Court takes close, contested look at lethal injection drug

By Catholic News Service 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Exactly one year after a botched execution in Oklahoma, the Supreme Court took a close look at the effectiveness of a specific drug used in the state’s lethal injections to determine whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
The April 29 oral arguments were at times bogged down by medical details and at other times were argumentative about the drug in question and the death penalty in general. The case, Glossip v. Gross, was presented by lawyers for three Oklahoma death-row inmates claiming the drug midazolam, the first drug administered in the state’s three-part lethal injection process, does not effectively put inmates into a coma-like state that prevents them from feeling pain.
It was the first time the justices re-examined lethal injections since 2008, when they ruled in Baze v. Rees that a three-drug protocol used in Kentucky executions did not violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In that protocol, the first drug causes unconsciousness, the second brings about paralysis and the third stops the heart. The difference now is that in recent years a shortage of drugs — due in part to a European-led boycott — has caused states to try a variety of drug combinations, not the specific ones the court considered and upheld in 2008. When Oklahoma prison authorities could no longer obtain a drug previously used, they began using midazolam, which was a factor in three problematic executions last year.
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