- Court: United States Supreme Court
- Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
- Date Filed: April 1, 2019
- Case #: 17-8151
- Judge(s)/Court Below: GORSUCH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, ALITO, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., and KAVANAUGH, J., filed concurring opinions. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined as to all but Part III. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
- Full Text Opinion
Petitioner was sentenced to death for murder. The State of Missouri planned to execute Petitioner by lethal injection of pentobarbital. Petitioner challenged the State’s lethal injection protocol, alleging that he would endure severe pain due to a rare medical condition. In Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008), the Supreme court concluded that refusal by a State to alter execution protocol might violate the Eighth Amendment only if the inmate identified a potential and feasible alternative procedure that would substantially reduce the risk of severe pain. This was affirmed in Glossip v. Gross, 576 U.S. ___ (2015). The District Court dismissed Petitioner's Eighth Amendment as-applied challenge. The Eighth Circuit remanded the case for Petitioner to identify an alternative. Petitioner identified nitrogen hypoxia, which the District Court found unconvincing, granting summary judgment for the State. The Supreme Court held that the decisions in Baze and Glossip govern all Eighth Amendment challenges which allege that a method of execution inflicts unconstitutionally cruel pain, whether facial or as-applied. They reasoned that the Constitution does not guarantee prisoners a painless death. Although Petitioner offered an alternative to pentobarbital, he did not produce evidence that such alternative would significantly reduce the substantial risk of excessive pain and precedent mandates a comparative exercise rather than considering his particular case as categorically cruel. AFFIRMED.