USA - Tennessee. Supreme Court Tosses Lethal Injection Protest.

10 October 2018 :

Tennessee Supreme Court Tosses Lethal Injection Protest. Tennessee's execution method is not cruel and unusual, the state supreme court ruled Monday, 3 days before the state's next execution, because inmates challenging its 3-drug lethal injection protocol did not present a viable alternative. 27 death-row inmates claimed the execution protocol violates the Eighth Amendment because midazolam, a sedative, does not counteract the burning and suffocating effects of the next 2 drugs: vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride to stop the heart. But in the 4-to-1 ruling Monday, Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins wrote: "The Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden to establish that Tennessee's current 3-drug lethal injection protocol constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution or article 1, section 16 of the Tennessee Constitution. As a result, we need not address the Plaintiffs' claim that the 3-drug protocol creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain." That burden, Bivins said, included offering a viable alternative, as laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Glossip v. Gross (2015), which unsuccessfully challenged Oklahoma's virtually identical execution protocol. The Tennessee inmates said at trial that the state could execute them through Tennessee's other execution protocol: 1 lethal dose of pentobarbital. Texas and Georgia executed people that way this year. But the Tennessee Supreme Court disagreed and sided with the state, which said it could not obtain pentobarbital. Many pharmaceutical companies refuse to provide the drug for executions. Bivins also ruled that the court could not "establish new law" by accepting the inmates' argument that Tennessee secrecy laws involving death penalty protocols affected their ability to argue their case. Tennessee in January adopted a lethal-injection protocol that begins with a 500-milligram dose of midazolam, followed by vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. 33 original plaintiffs sued the state in February and appealed the trial court’s dismissal in July. The state supreme court reached down to take up the case, and set an expedited briefing schedule.


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