Three inmates from Oklahoma will now have their execution dates scheduled after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the use of midazolam for their lethal injections.
The three death row inmates claimed the drug, which is one of three drugs put into the injections, causes excruciating pain. They cited the Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
But the justices said the inmates bound for lethal injection were not able to substantially defend their claims, as well as “failed to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain.”
Midazolam is a drug that will sedate the death row inmate, putting him/her into sleep before the administration of a lethal injection. But in 2014, three cases occurred where inmates suddenly awoke and were reported to suffer violently before dying. The incidents earned the moniker botched executions because the sedative didn’t work as it should have.
Thus, in a 5-4 ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma may continue the controversial lethal injection drug during executions. Moreover, the use of the drug does not violate any constitutional law.
“Because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. … Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the state will now resume executions. “This marks the eighth time a court has upheld as constitutional the lethal injection protocol used by Oklahoma,” Pruitt said in a statement. “The Court’s ruling preserves the ability of the Department of Corrections to proceed with carrying out the punishment of death.”
Four states, including Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma, have administered the controversial drug during executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Five other states recommended to use it.
Those who ruled for the continued use of Midazolam as execution drug were Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.