October 9, 2018
On eve of execution, Tennessee Supreme Court rejects challenge to state's execution protocol
As reported in this legal news story, "Tennessee’s execution method is not cruel and unusual, the state supreme court ruled Monday, three days before the state’s next execution, because inmates challenging its three-drug lethal injection protocol did not present a viable alternative." Here is more on the ruling and a link to the full opinion:
Twenty-seven death-row inmates claimed the execution protocol violates the Eight Amendment because midazolam, a sedative, does not counteract the burning and suffocating effects of the next two 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: “(T)he Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden to establish that Tennessee’s current three-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 three-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: one 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 is scheduled to execute Edmund Zagorski on Thursday, October 11.
October 9, 2018 at 09:10 AM | Permalink