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Arizona high court halts lethal injection pending US Supreme Court review

[JURIST] The Arizona Supreme Court [official website] indefinitely stayed the execution of a man on death row Thursday, saying it will wait until the US Supreme Court reviews whether lethal injection is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment in Baze v. Rees (07-5439) [docket; cert. petition]. The Arizona Supreme Court has already ruled that the state's lethal injection method is constitutional, but stayed the execution of Jeffrey Landrigan [AZ DOC materials] pending the US Supreme Court's consideration of Baze because its method is so similar to the one under review.

Arizona, like many other states, uses a controversial three-drug mixture [DPIC backgrounder] of an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in the Baze case that the state's current method of lethal injection, the same method Arizona uses, does not violate the constitution [JURIST report] because the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment "does not require a complete absence of pain." Several constitutional challenges [JURIST news archive] to the procedure have arisen across the country, arguing that the first drug fails to make the inmate fully unconscious, thereby making the inmate suffer excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected. AP has more. The Arizona Republic has local coverage.

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