[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday declined to review [docket, PDF] a lethal injection case from Alabama, over the dissent of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. The appeal was filed by inmate Tommy Arthur, who was challenging the method of his execution [AP report], claiming that it was difficult for inmates to effectively challenge the method of execution as they were required to identify an alternative and state accepted method as well as a plan for execution. Arthur has continued to assert his innocence, and in her dissent [text, PDF], Sotomayor stated
It is a matter of permitting a death row inmate to make the showing Glossip requires in order to prove that the Constitution demands something less cruel and less unusual than what the State has offered. Having met the challenge set forth in Glossip, Arthur deserves the opportunity to have his claim fairly reviewed in court.
Lethal injection remains controversial, and numerous states have switched to the three-drug protocol, which uses midazolam as a sedative before administering a second drug to paralyze and stop breathing and a third drug to stop the heart. Last month a federal judge blocked [JURIST report] Ohio’s lethal injection protocol. The protocol, which uses three drugs, was rejected as the sedative midazolam was deemed insufficiently humane. In December the Mississippi Supreme Court allowed a challenge [JURIST report] to the use of the sedative. Also that month an inmate in Alabama coughed and struggled to breathe for 13 minutes [JURIST report] during the administration of midazolam, which death penalty opponents called an “avoidable disaster.” The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Glossip v. Gross last year that Oklahoma’s use of midazolam as part of its lethal injection protocol does not violate [JURIST report] the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.