Lethal injection was intended to replace traditional methods of execution, such has hanging, the gas chamber, and the electric chair, that were considered cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court ruled 5–4 today that the use of a particular sedative in lethal injection cocktails in Oklahoma does not violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The sedative used in lethal injections is meant to put the person to sleep before other drugs stop the heart and paralyze the lungs; however, a series of what many people are calling “botched” executions led to the Glossip v. Gross case. Inmates argued that midazolam is unreliable in rendering the inmate unconscious, potentially exposing him to extreme pain from the third drug administered.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent, didn’t hold back on her opposition to the use of midazolam.
Sotomayor didn’t stop at comparing Oklahoma’s lethal injection process to burning at the stake, saying, “Under the Court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake.”
Not surprisingly, the majority in the decision couldn’t simply let Sotomayor’s comparison to inmates being “drawn and quartered” stand unchallenged.