Supreme Court Approves Continued Use of Problematic Execution Drug

leifertlaw June 29, 2015 Courts

Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers

Yesterday, in the case of Glossip v. Gross, the United States Supreme Court ruled against three death row inmates who were seeking to prevent the use of a certain lethal injection drug that can cause excruciating pain.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Alito, articulated that the inmates failed to identify a viable alternative method of execution and that the petitioners didn’t succeed in proving that the drug in question, midazolam, presents “an unacceptable risk of severe pain.”

As our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert know, the highly anticipated ruling in this case has far-reaching implications. For instance, here in Florida, midazolam is a listed option for use in lethal injections. With this ruling, it appears this dangerous drug will continue to be administered in the Sunshine State.

As we wrote back in February of this year, the Supreme Court halted an execution in Florida amid questions regarding whether or not the use of the drug midazolam amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. There had been, up until that point, a number of reports involving botched executions; inmates had been given supposed lethal doses of midazolam, only to writhe in agony, suffering immeasurably. As our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know, despite the power of the drug, in many cases, it failed to put inmates in a comalike state in which they cannot feel pain.

Once that execution in Florida was halted earlier this year, the state was essentially waiting for word from the Supreme Court over whether or not use of midazolam was appropriate. Yesterday, Florida — and Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Virginia — got the go-ahead to keep using the drug when the Supreme Court, along partisan lines, ruled that use of midazolam did and does not violate the Eighth Amendment (which protects against cruel and unusual punishment) and is thus constitutional.

As we noted above, in addition to arguing that the prisoners failed to prove the true risks associated with midazolam, the Supreme Court majority opinion pointed out that the petitioners failed in that they didn’t offer an available, appropriate alternative to midazolam. As our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know, in making this claim, the majority further rejected the basis of the petitioners’ case, if ostensibly on procedural grounds.

Just because somebody has violated committed certain crimes does not mean that they lose all their rights. Someone on death row, while perhaps guilty of a heinous crime and perhaps even deserving of death, should not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, as frequently happens with the administration of midazolam. If the drug has been shown to cause torturous pain and thus fail to fulfill its promise of placing the inmate in a painless state, its use should be declared unconstitutional.

If you have any questions about this or any other Supreme Court ruling or criminal defense issue, or if you’ve been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward and/or Miami-Dade County, please contact our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at Leifert & Leifert by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you.

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