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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Supreme Court Allows Lethal Injection Execution

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 to uphold Kentucky's use of lethal injection on death-row inmates, rejecting the argument that the three-drug cocktail constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that "petitioners' proof and evidence, while giving rise to legitimate concern, do not show that Kentucky's execution method amounts to 'cruel and unusual punishment.'"

Opponents claimed that lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel because it can cause prisoners to suffocate while they are conscious but paralyzed.

Thirty-seven states use a cocktail of sodium Pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The first drug anesthetizes inmates, the second paralyzes them and the third causes cardiac arrest.

Proponents argue that the risk for pain and suffering under the current protocol is eliminated if the 3 grams of sodium Pentothal - more than 10 times the surgical dose - is delivered correctly.

Executions have been on hold since September, when the high court agreed to take up the Kentucky case.

Justices Ginsburg and Souter dissented.

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