The government's use of a cruel and unusual three-drug lethal injection cocktail which makes people feel like they're being burned alive is A-OK, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The Supreme Court on Monday approved the use of a lethal injection technique that critics had condemned as cruel and unusual punishment, clearing the way for executions that had been put on hold to now proceed.According to the majority, death row inmates must become chemists and devise their own executions -- that is if they're not executed before even being given the chance as was Charles Warner.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, was a departure from a series of legal victories for liberals in recent days, including gay-marriage rights and the preservation of a major component of Obamacare.
The court, split 5-4 along the usual ideological lines, rejected claims that Oklahoma’s use of a three-drug protocol to carry out executions violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Opponents of the protocol had argued it placed death row prisoners at unacceptable risk of being conscious but paralyzed as they receive a dose of a drug that is known to cause an intense burning sensation.
The court’s majority held that prisoners challenging an execution method as posing an unreasonable risk of severe pain must show that the government has overlooked a more humane method of carrying out capital punishment.
“The prisoners failed to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain,” Alito wrote in a ruling likely to make it more difficult for death penalty opponents to block or delay executions based on how a state plans to put inmates to death.
Alito also ruled that there is little scientific evidence that Oklahoma’s protocol was flawed and he warned it was unwise to effectively force the nation to use a single execution method.
“That argument, if accepted, would hamper the adoption of new and potentially more humane methods of execution and would prevent States from adapting to changes in the availability of suitable drugs,” he wrote.
In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor bitterly denounced the court’s holding that those challenging a particular execution protocol had to show that a more humane method was available.
“Certainly the condemned has no duty to devise or pick a constitutional instrument of his or her own death,” Sotomayor wrote. “Under the Court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake: because petitioners failed to prove there was an available alternative, their challenge would automatically fail,” she added as she paraphrased her opinion from the bench.
[...]Four Oklahoma death row prisoners brought the case to the Supreme Court on Jan. 13. However, over the dissent of the four liberal justices, the court denied the inmates’ request to stay their executions. So, Oklahoma executed prisoner and petitioner Charles Warner on Jan. 15 using the midazolam-based three-drug method as he declared: “My body is on fire.”