Supreme Court of United States- In a significant decision wherein four Oklahoma death-row inmates
(petitioners) filed for preliminary injunction contending that the method of
execution involving midazolam as the first drug, used by the State of Oklahoma
violates the Eighth Amendment because it creates an unacceptable risk of severe
pain, the Court by a majority of 5:4 affirmed the Tenth Circuit and District
Court finding stating that the petitioners failed to establish that the use of
a massive dose of midazolam by Oklahoma in its lethal injection protocol
involves a substantial risk of severe pain associated with the administration
of second and third drug during execution. Alito J., giving a majority judgment
also observed that the claims made by the petitioners cannot succeed as in an
execution claim, it must be established that the method used creates a demonstrated
risk of severe pain and that the risk is substantial when compared to the known
and available alternatives, which the petitioners failed to establish in the
instant case.According to the facts Oklahoma used a three drug
protocol to carry out executions which involved sodium thiopental as the first
drug. Due to pressure from anti-death-penalty advocates, the pharmaceutical
companies stopped manufacturing the drug. As a result Oklahoma decided to use
500-mg of midazolam, a sedative, as the first drug in its three-drug protocol.
Petitioners, thus argue that midazolam, employed in three-drug protocol, fails
to render a person insensitive to pain associated with the administration of
second and third drug.
The Court further held that the argument of the
petitioner that the Eighth Amendment does not require them to identify an alternative
for the controversial drug, cannot stand as it is inconsistent with the opinion
formulated in Baze v. Rees, 553 U. S.
35, 61 (2008), which imposed a requirement of identifying a known and available
alternative. Sonia Sotomayor J., giving the dissenting opinion said, “The
court’s available-alternative requirement leads to patently absurd
consequences”. Breyer J., forwarding another dissenting opinion asked the Court
for a full briefing on a more basic question i.e., whether the death penalty
violates the Constitution. [Glossip v.
Gross, 576 U. S. ____ (2015), decided on 29.06.2015]
Source: Legal news India