[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma [official website] ruled Monday that Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol protocol [JURIST report] is constitutional. The ruling [AP report] has effectively allowed the state to continue with the scheduled executions of four death row inmates beginning in early 2015. The state was forced to examine the constitutionality of its lethal injection protocol after the inmates scheduled for execution asked for a preliminary injunction, arguing that one of the drugs the state uses as part of the lethal injection protocol would subject them and others to cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of their Eighth Amendment [text] rights. The court ruled that the lethal injection protocol does not subject inmates on death row to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
The suit follows Oklahoma’s botched execution [JURIST report] of former inmate Clayton Lockett in April. The controversy surrounding the contents of lethal injection drugs and execution protocol in the US has been a mainstream issue in politics and in courts around the US in 2014, especially since this botched execution. In October a death row inmate in Alabama filed a lawsuit [JURIST report], claiming that the new lethal injection mix planned for use in his execution was unconstitutional. In September, when Oklahoma addressed its lethal injection procedures, Governor Mary Fallin [official website] stood behind the death penalty for the most heinous crimes. In May the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals approved [JURIST report] a six-month stay of the execution for a current death row inmate while an investigation was conducted into issues with Lockett’s execution. In a June article JURIST Guest Columnist Andrew Spiropoulos of the Oklahoma City University School of Law discussed [JURIST op-ed] the tactical strategies of all parties involved in the Oklahoma Courts’ death penalty decisions.