[JURIST] A Tennessee judge on Wednesday ruled that the state’s use of lethal injections for the execution of death row inmates is constitutional. The decision by Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman [official profile] came in answer to a lawsuit brought by 33 death row inmates and their attorneys. According to Bonnyman, plaintiffs failed to prove [The Tennessean report] that the state’s execution practice, in which only the drug compounded pentobarbital is used, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling cited the testimony of experts who stated at trial that the drug was used successfully in other states, as well as the US Supreme Court’s decision in Baze v. Rees [opinion, PDF], to support the set standard that a single error or mishandled execution does not mean that an Eighth Amendment [text] violation has occurred. Tennessee has not executed a prisoner since 2009.
The topic of lethal injections remains a controversial one throughout the United States. In July the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] 5-4 that Oklahoma’s use of the sedative midazolam as part of its lethal injection protocol does not violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In the case, the inmates alleged that a negligent administering of the drug can cause one to be conscious for the remainder of the lethal injection process, as evidenced by Oklahoma’s botched execution [JURIST report] of former inmate Clayton Lockett. The court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in the case in January. Earlier this week a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi issued a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] blocking the use of two drugs for lethal injections.