Alabama Prisoner Seeking Death By Firing Squad Loses Bid For U.S. Supreme Court Review; Two Justices Dissent
Feb 24, 2017 12:26 PM EST
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear the appeal of an Alabama death-row prisoner who is seeking death by firing squad. Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Stephen G. Breyer, dissent from the court's refusal to grant certiorari in the case of Thomas Arthur.
Sotomayor stated that Arthur had amassed evidence that Alabama's lethal-injection protocol will result in intolerable and needless agony. The Aba Journal reported that one of the drugs in the procedure is the sedative midazolam, which replaced sodium thiopental.
The Supreme Court had upheld a lethal injection protocol which used midazolam. According to Sotomayor, the court had issued "a macabre challenge" in the case, requiring condemned inmates challenging the constitutionality of their execution method to show not only that the method risks a lot of pain but also that there is an alternative.
A federal appeals court stated that execution using a firing squad isn't an available alternative because it is not expressly permitted by Alabama law. This is extremely bad for Sotomayor, who stated that it isn't clear that midazolam blocks pain to be used in executions.
She added that science and experience are now revealing that, at least with respect to midazolam-centered protocols, inmates executed by lethal injection are suffering horrifying deaths. Legal News reported that Chief Justice John Roberts voted to stop the execution, but said that Arthur's appeal "does not merit the court's review."
Arthur was convicted of the 1982 murder of his paramour's husband and he has been mounting legal challenges for more than three decades. His convictions were twice overturned, and then, Arthur was convicted in a third trial. The Alabama prisoner is seeking death by firing squad instead of the lethal-injection protocol.