On January 7, 2008, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Baze v. Rees, a case concerning the death penalty and Kentucky's form of lethal injection. The Court considered three questions: (1) does the Eighth Amendment prohibit means for carrying out a method of execution that create an unnecessary risk of pain and suffering as opposed to a substantial risk of the wanton infliction of pain? (2) do the means for carrying out an execution cause an unnecessary risk of pain and suffering in violation of the Eighth Amendment if readily available alternatives that pose less risk of pain and suffering could be used? (3) does the continued use of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, individually or together, violate the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment because lethal injections can be carried out by using other chemicals that pose less risk of pain and suffering? On April 16, 2008, the Court upheld Kentucky's lethal injection protocol, which is fairly close to the protocol used in 36 states and by the federal government. There was no opinion for the Court, but rather a three Justice plurality opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, and concurrences in the result written by Justice Stevens, Justice Thomas (for himself and Justice Scalia), and Justice Breyer. In this episode of SCOTUScast, Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, discusses the case.
Click HERE for an earlier SCOTUScast on the oral arguments in Baze v. Rees.
Oral Argument - January 7, 2008:
Decision - April 16, 2008: