Supreme Court Upholds Kentucky's Use Of Lethal Injections

By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's use of lethal injection executions Wednesday, likely clearing the way to resume executions that have been on hold for nearly 8 months.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, turned back a constitutional challenge to the procedures in place in Kentucky, which uses three drugs to sedate, paralyze and kill inmates. Similar methods are used by roughly three dozen states.

"We ... agree that petitioners have not carried their burden of showing that the risk of pain from maladministration of a concededly humane lethal injection protocol, and the failure to adopt untried and untested alternatives, constitute cruel and unusual punishment," Chief Justice John Roberts said in an opinion that garnered only three votes. Four other justices, however, agreed with the outcome.

Roberts' opinion did leave open subsequent challenges to lethal injection practices if a state refused to adopt an alternative method that significantly reduced the risk of severe pain.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented.

Executions have been on hold since September, when the court agreed to hear the Kentucky case. There was no immediate indication when they would resume.

The argument against the three-drug protocol is that if the initial anesthetic does not take hold, the other two drugs can cause excruciating pain. One of those drugs, a paralytic, would render the prisoner unable to express his discomfort.

The case before the court came from Kentucky, where two death row inmates did not ask to be spared execution or death by injection. Instead, they wanted the court to order a switch to a single drug, a barbiturate, that causes no pain and can be given in a large enough dose to cause death.

At the very least, they said, the state should be required to impose tighter controls on the three-drug process to ensure that the anesthetic is given properly.

Roberts said the one-drug method, frequently used in animal euthanasia, "has problems of its own, and has never been tried by a single state."

Kentucky has had only one execution by lethal injection and it did not present any obvious problems, both sides in the case agreed.

But executions elsewhere, in Florida and Ohio, took much longer than usual, with strong indications that the prisoners suffered severe pain in the process. Workers had trouble inserting the IV lines that are used to deliver the drugs.

Roberts said "a condemned prisoner cannot successfully challenge a state's method of execution merely by showing a slightly or marginally safer alternative."

Ginsburg, in her dissent, said she would ask Kentucky courts to consider whether the state includes adequate safeguards to ensure a prisoner is unconscious and thus unlikely to suffer severe pain.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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  • by Don Location: London on Apr 17, 2008 at 12:28 PM
    Finally the fat lady has sung.All appeals have been exhausted and judgement day for these two has arrived.Now there is no excuse for Gov.to sign death warrants and get this done.Why not today?
  • by Barbara Barber Location: Nicholasville, KY on Apr 17, 2008 at 07:39 AM
    Was there a Vet in court to testify against the injections! NOPE....I am SICK of hearing about these "poor inmates" and the cruel lethal injections! These "poor inmates" didn't care about taking the law in their on hands when they killed. My family has been waiting for "25 years" for two excutions (since January 13, 1983 to be exact). Why has NOTHING been done with them? HEY GOVERNER is the state short handed due to job cuts? Do they need volunteers to help? I got plenty that will help. THESE TWO ARE GUILTY! NO QUESTION ABOUT IT! THEY DIDN"T DISPUTE IT EITHER! THEY MURDERED 4 PEOPLE!!!!!!!!
  • by TRACY Location: KENTUCKY on Apr 17, 2008 at 07:11 AM
    YOU KNOW I DONT THINK THAT THE MEDICINE GIVEN TO INMATES IS RIGHT.THE INMATE SHOULD HAVE THE RUGHT TO EXPRESS THEIR OPINIONS BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONES AFTER ALL THAT HAS TO SUSTAIN THIS CRUELTY ANYWAYS.I DONT BELIEVE IN THE KILLING OF MANKIND BECAUSE,YOU PEOPLE SAY THAT 2 WRONGS DONT MAKE 1 RIGHT..IS THAT TRUE?I THINK IT IS THE SAME THING AS MURDERING SOMEONE...EVEN TOUGH THESE INDIVIDUALS COMMITED CRIMES OF THE SAME.SO ITS THE SAME AS SAYING YOU KILL SOMEONE WE KILL YOU BACK . NOT RIGHT THEY SHOULD LIVE THE REST OF THEIR LIVES BEHIND BARS AND SUFFER THAT WAY,BECAUSE THEN THEY WILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE GUILT THAT IS ENOUGH FOR ANYONE TO INJEST.
  • by green on Apr 17, 2008 at 06:16 AM
    I'm sure they were really worried about the suffering of the ones they killed. Thank you Kentucky for not being fooled by this silliness.
  • by Kimberly Mills Location: Barbourville on Apr 17, 2008 at 06:05 AM
    I'm sorry but my opinion is if you have done something so bad that you are on "Death Row" then you should have to suffer as sevierlly as the one(s) you made suffer.
  • by c Location: fkt on Apr 17, 2008 at 05:00 AM
    Finally there is an end to the question of cruel & usual punishment. It should have never been an issue in the first place! They didn't think about the pain they caused their victims, so why should anyone consider their pain? I say, get r done, start executing them immediately & save us all some money! It should not take 20 yrs for these scum to die all the while costing taxpayers millions to keep them alive long enough to be executed! It's silly. No wonder the USA has the highest crime rate in the world, we baby these killers. They should be through ALL their appeals within 2 yrs of their first conviction! Start forcing the judges/lawyers to put them first on the dockets so they won't live so long on death row costing us money!
  • by Sonya Location: Lexington on Apr 17, 2008 at 02:58 AM
    Think of how many death row inmates have been found to truly be not guilty after the fact. Is it worth the risk to kill an innocent person? How would you feel if YOU were that innocent person sitting on death row? Killing someone does not bring back the murdered person. We need, as a society, to focus on rehabilitation as a solution to the "crime problem". Which is just becoming more costly and less effective as the prison system becomes more a monster that needs be "fed" more inmates to keep the beast alive.
  • by Chris Location: Lexington on Apr 17, 2008 at 12:10 AM
    Alright! For once I am actually proud KY did something NON-LIBERAL. Stick with the death penalty!
  • by Kay Location: stanton ky on Apr 16, 2008 at 06:17 PM
    I know 2 of the guys that Ralph Baze killed.They were good guys.Steve our sheriff was a very kind and gentle person.Not just a cop.He was alot like Big Randy.Ralp shot him in the back along with his deputy and one had thier face shot.Wheres there justice.If they get excuted watch out Jamie B.You will be next for killing Bid Randy.As far as the bowling guy i do not know him.But he killed 2 people that were just as good as our men here in powell county.They were not given the option of a easy death so why should these inmates?
  • by richard Location: campbellsville on Apr 16, 2008 at 02:52 PM
    baze and bowling are both human scum and are breathing air someone else could be using,lets hurry up and get rid of them,if they dont like lethal injection we could alway
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