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Three-drug lethal injection protocol use did not violate Constitution: US Supreme Court

Jun 30, 2015 16:15 IST

The US Supreme Court on 29 June 2015 upheld the use of three controversial drug lethal injections protocol used in executions of inmates across the country. It said that it does not violate the Constitution in terms of being cruel and unusual punishment.

While writing the opinion of the 5-4 majority Justice Samuel Alito along with Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas rejected arguments presented by lawyers of inmates in Oklahoma.

Lawyers of the inmates argued that the first injection, a sedative called midazolam, would not prevent their clients from feeling searing pain from the second and third injections that caused paralysis and heart failure. Hence, it was contrary to the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution that forbids cruel and unusual punishments.

Further, a divided Supreme Court ruled that the inmates who challenged the use of the sedative failed to establish that Oklahoma’s use of a massive dose of midazolam entails a substantial risk of severe pain.

The Justices also noted that the plaintiffs did not identify an alternative method of execution that significantly reduces that risk.

Background

Midazolam raised concerns after it was used in executions of three jail inmates, most notably the execution of Clayton Lockett, in Oklahoma in April 2014 that took longer time than usual.

Following which and in lieu of shortage of midazolam in the US, the state legislature of Oklahoma on 9 April 2015 passed a bill that allows use of nitrogen gas (nitrogen-induced hypoxia) as a method of execution.

Comment

The ruling clears the path for executions to continue in a number of states of the US although a number of US states are facing shortage of midazolam sedative due to European manufacturers opposing capital punishment refusing to sell the drugs to them.

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