Three botched executions in 2014 prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedures.
“I am deeply troubled by this evidence suggesting that Midazolam cannot constitutionally be used as the first drug in a three-drug lethal injection protocol…” said Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.
This case comes after the execution of Charles Warner, one of four Oklahoma inmates who filed the petition. The three remaining defendants will likely be granted stays, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Four justices voted to stay Warner’s execution, but it takes a majority five votes to grant a stay.
At least four inmates have been put to death even when four of the nine justices would have granted a stay of execution. Hofstra University law professor Eric M. Freedman urged the justices to change this practice and “stop permitting execution when four justices object.”
Freeman added, “The justices deserve time to think. A statement by four of them that want time should suffice to postpone a potentially fatal deadline.”
The petitioners maintain there is a well-established scientific consensus that the first drug has no pain-relieving properties and cannot reliably produce deep, coma-like unconsciousness. The suit claims the procedure produces a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of pain and suffering from the administration of the second and third drugs while a prisoner is conscious.
The case is Glossip v. Gross, No. 147955, cert. granted Jan. 23 2015.