CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, January 6, 2008

SCOTUS to Hear Lethal Injection Case

Court_front_med From On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a Kentucky case to decide whether the method of lethal injection used in more than two dozen states, including Texas, is cruel and unusual punishment.

The case will not decide whether the death penalty itself is unconstitutional, but whether the drugs used to inflict death – sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride – cause unnecessary pain.

Sodium thiopental is used to render the inmate unconscious; pancuronium bromide paralyzes the muscles; potassium chloride stops the heart. The three-drug cocktail was first used in Texas in 1982.

The Kentucky inmates – Ralph Baze, who was convicted of killing a sheriff and deputy in 1992, and Thomas C. Bowling, who was convicted of killing a couple after an automobile accident in 1990 – argue that if the first drug wears off, the paralysis caused by the pancuronium bromide may hide excruciating pain, causing the inmate to suffer needlessly.

Pancuronium bromide "prevents a person from speaking, moving, or expressing any other outward signs of pain or consciousness, but is extremely agonizing in a conscious person as the person suffocates just as if he or she was drowning with weights on his or her body to prevent movement," the filings say.

In addition, the filings say, potassium chloride, "otherwise known as road salt ... is excruciatingly painful in a conscious person." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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