Supreme Court Will Review Lethal Injection

Justices to hear appeal from death-row inmates in Oklahoma
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2015 4:23 PM CST
The execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is pictured in McAlester, Okla.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

(Newser) Gay marriage won't be the only high-profile issue on the Supreme Court's docket: The justices today said they would take up the issue of lethal injection, reports SCOTUSblog. Death-row inmates in Oklahoma say the state's three-drug protocol amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, as evidenced by the botched execution of Clayton Lockett last year. Specifically, the inmates object to the use of midazolam, a sedative and the first of the drugs administered, reports AP. They say it doesn't work effectively, thus making the next two drugs especially painful.

One unusual part of the case: The appeal was originally brought by four death-row inmates, but one of them was executed last week. A second is due to be executed next week, and the justices made no move to put the executions on hold before they consider the case. It takes the votes of only four justices to accept a case, notes USA Today, making it a safe bet that it was the same four—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—who tried unsuccessfully to stop last week's execution. The case is expected to be heard in April.

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