Charlie Buttrey

April 2, 2019

Long-time readers will recall that I have always taken the position that the single-most important issue in any Presidential election is Supreme Court nominations.

I was right.

With the two Trump nominees voting with the majority, the U.S. Supree Court yesterday ruled, by a 5-4 margin, that a death-row inmate may be executed by lethal injection notwithstanding a rare medical condition that will cause excruciating pain.

While the holding did not come as a huge surprise, what was noteworthy was the Court’s sheer lack of empathy as well as its passion for alacrity in the execution process. Pooh-poohing the inmate’s documented disease, and despite the evidence that, if executed by lethal injection, he would choke to death on his own blood in a process that could take several minutes, Justice Gorsuch cavalierly wrote that the Eighth Amendment “does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death — something that, of course, isn’t guaranteed to many people, including most victims of capital crimes.”

Justice Thomas, concurring in the holding, helpfully (and perhaps gleefully) opined that the Eight Amendment only prohibits the government from deliberately inflicting pain.

In dissent, Justice Breyer wrote that the inmate faces an “excruciating and grotesque” punishment.  Justice Sotomayor added: “There are higher values than ensuring that executions run on time. If a death sentence or the manner in which it is carried out violates the Constitution, that stain can never come out. Our jurisprudence must remain one of vigilance and care, not one of dismissiveness.”

 

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