The Supreme Court ruled on Monday against three death row inmates who had sought to bar the use of an execution drug they said risked causing excruciating pain.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote the majority opinion in the 5-to-4 decision. He was joined by the court’s four more conservative justices.The drug, the sedative midazolam, played a part in three long and apparently painful executions last year. It was used in an effort to render inmates unconscious before they were injected with other, severely painful drugs.Four condemned inmates in Oklahoma challenged the use of the drug, saying it did not reliably render the person unconscious and so violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Lower courts disagreed.The new case, Glossip v. Gross, No.14-7955, originally included a fourth inmate, Charles F. Warner. But he was executed on Jan. 15 after the Supreme Court denied his request for a stay by a 5-to-4 vote.
Sotomayor's dissent was a brutal vivisection of the court's opinion, especially as she accuses the five conservatives of being down with torture.
“Petitioners contend that Oklahoma’s current protocol is a barbarous method of punishment — the chemical equivalent of being burned alive. But 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.”
I'll borrow from Roberts in the Obergefell decision last week: celebrate executions resuming in Oklahoma, even celebrate the chance to exact a few more pounds of flesh and bone in joy and retribution. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.