Inmate’s Death-Penalty Challenge Rejected

     (CN) A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by a death row inmate in Louisiana who argued his death sentence is unconstitutional.
     The majority did not explain their rationale for rejecting Lamondre Tucker’s petition for a writ of certiorari, but in a dissent joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer said he would have granted certiorari to “confront … whether the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”
     Tucker was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for killing his pregnant girlfriend in 2008. At the time, Breyer noted, Tucker was 18 years, 5 months and 6 days old.
     Tuesday’s dissent is the second time in a year that Breyer, an outspoken critic of the death penalty, has dissented in a ruling on the grounds the penalty should be re-evaluated.
     In a dissent to the 2015 case Glossip v. Gross, Breyer criticized the death penalty, arguing that the process underpinning it is arbitrary, prone to mistakes and time-consuming.
     In Glossip a divided Supreme Court held death-row inmates failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the use of midazolam, the first drug administered in Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, violates the Eighth Amendment because it fails to render a person insensate to pain.
     In the latest case, Breyer again focused on the arbitrary nature of death penalty cases, noting that Tucker was sentenced to death in Caddo Parish, which imposes half the death sentences in Louisiana even though it has only 5 percent of the state’s population and just 5 percent of its homicides.
     “One could reasonably believe that if Tucker had committed the same crime but been tried and sentenced just across the Red River in, say, Bossier Parish, he would not now be on death row,” Breyer said.

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