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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
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High Court Votes 5-4 to|Clear Arizona Execution

(CN) - Arizona officials executed convicted murderer Jeffrey Landrigan on Tuesday, after a late-night clearance by the Supreme Court. The justices voted 5-4 to lift an order blocking execution, despite concerns that one of the drugs used in lethal injections came from another country.

"There is no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a one-page order allowing the execution to take place.

Landrigan had asked a federal judge to block his execution, originally scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, due to concerns over a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, part of the "three-drug cocktail" used in lethal injections.

Landrigan objected to Arizona's use of a foreign supply of the drug, a fast-acting barbiturate that stops respiration. State officials confirmed that the drug was from Britain.

Landrigan wanted the state to give him details about the drug, including the amount, source, package label, expiration date and other shipping information.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the execution, and on Tuesday a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld the order.

Arizona officials appealed, and at about 10 p.m. Eastern time, the Supreme Court intervened to allow the execution to move forward.

"The district court granted the temporary restraining order because it was left to speculate as to the risk of harm," Kennedy wrote for the court's conservative majority. "But speculation cannot substitute for evidence that the use of the drug is 'sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering,'" a requirement established in Baze v. Rees (2008) and Helling v. McKinney (1993).

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan voted to block the execution.

Landrigan was convicted of strangling Chester Dean Dyer in 1989 during an armed burglary after he escaped from prison. He had been serving another sentence for second-degree murder.

His execution Tuesday night, witnessed by about two dozen people, was Arizona's second in 10 years.

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