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Supreme Court allows death row lethal injection challenge to proceed

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in two cases Monday, including Hill v. McDonough [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court held that a death row inmate can challenge the constitutionality of a state's method of lethal injection [JURIST news archive] under 42 USC 1983 [text] even when all other appeals have been exhausted. The Court in January granted a stay of execution [JURIST report] for death row inmate Clarence Hill [NCADP profile], who was sentenced to death in Florida for the 1982 killing of a police officer. Hill has exhausted all his federal habeas appeals but filed a civil rights lawsuit arguing the chemicals used by Florida and several other states in lethal injections cause unnecessary pain and suffering, and therefore constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Court did not rule on the constitutionality of lethal injection but instead allowed Hill to proceed with his claim. Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Kennedy. AP has more.

In a second decision Monday, the Court ruled in House v. Bell [Duke law case backgrounder; JURIST report] that a death row inmate can use DNA evidence to attempt to prove his innocence 20 years after his conviction. The Court said that appellant Paul Gregory House, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the abduction, attempted rape and murder of Carolyn Muncey in July 1985, presented enough exculpatory evidence to merit another look at his case. Read the Court's majority opinion [text] per Justice Kennedy, along with a partial concurrence and dissent [text] from Chief Justice Roberts, who was joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas. Justice Alito did not participate in consideration of the case. AP has more.

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