For the first time since its landmark 2008 decision rejecting a challenge to execution by lethal injection, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the subject again, this time considering Oklahoma’s system for execution. The court said on Friday that it will take a case brought by three Oklahoma death-row inmates arguing the state’s three-drug combination is unconstitutional.
The inmates’ lawyer, Dale Baich , expressed satisfaction with the decision, stating, “The time is right for the Court to take a careful look at this important issue, particularly given the bungled executions that have occurred since states started using these novel and experimental drugs protocols.” He was echoed delightedly by Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, who said, “This is very big. They may focus just on what Oklahoma is doing, but it will set a standard for every state. It’s going to put a stamp on what’s allowable and what’s not.”
Of course, the opponents of capital punishment ignore the actions of the three killers: Richard Glossip orchestrated his employer’s murder, John Grant knifed a correctional worker to death, and Benjamin Cole murdered his nine-month old daughter. Last week, the state executed Charles Warner by lethal injection without any unforeseen problems; Warner had raped and murdered an eleven-month old baby.
The state came under review when convicted murderer Clayton Lockett’s execution nine moths ago when awry.
The drug combination that had been used since 2008 became increasingly hard to obtain because manufacturers would not sell them to be used for execution. As a result, Oklahoma started using midazolam as the first drug of the series used in the process. That drug caused executions to take longer than they had previously, leaving the inmates gasping for air.
Capital punishment opponents assert that because of the failure of midazolam to produce “a deep, coma-like unconsciousness,” the convicted inmates suffer through the paralytic and a heart-stopper that follow.
The case is expected to come before the court in April and be decided by June.