Monday, June 29, 2015

Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection Drugs for Death Penalty

This case broke down along the Court's classic 5-4, right-left split, with Samuel Alito writing the majority opinion.

At LAT, "Supreme Court OKs use of controversial sedative in executions":
The Supreme Court has cleared the way for Oklahoma and other death-penalty states to execute convicted murderers with a lethal injection that relies on a substitute sedative.

The 5-4 decision rejected claims from death-penalty foes who said the drug in question, midazolam, is not reliably effective and could subject an inmate to a cruelly painful death.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the prisoners who challenged the use of this drug "failed to establish that Oklahoma's use of a massive dose of midazolam in its execution protocol entails a substantial risk of severe pain."

Moreover, they failed to suggest a reasonable alternative drug, since the most effective barbiturates are no longer available, he said.

In one of two dissents, Justice Stephen Breyer questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty itself.

"I believe it is highly likely that the death penalty violates the 8th Amendment" and its ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

He said the court should hear arguments on that question in the future...
As the Obergefell case showed, the Court slavishly hews to public opinion. And so as long as a majority in public opinion supports the death penalty --- and public support is still at 60 percent now --- then the Court will continue to uphold it.

One wildcard is Anthony Kennedy, of course. He's basically a leftist. Frankly I'm a bit surprised he didn't rule against Oklahoma's drug cocktail in this case.

More at Memerandum.