This Day in History

On this day in 2008, The United States Supreme Court ruled on a case involving the use of lethal injection as a means of executing offenders sentenced to the death penalty. Two inmates on death row in Kentucky had brought the case after suing the state. They alleged that lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment.

There is a combination of three drugs that are used in lethal injections. The two inmates were appealing the use of these drugs because they said lethal injection violated the Constitution. Virginia was the first state after the ruling to lift the moratorium on lethal injection.

Lethal Injection Upheld as Constitutional by Supreme Court with 7-2 Vote

Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy held that lethal injection was constitutional and humane as long as the first drug used makes the inmate unconscious. In addition, the three justices held that one isolated mishap with lethal injection isn’t a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred with this, but wrote another opinion because he had concerns with the legalities of the death penalty in the first place. Justice Scalia and Thomas wrote a discourse addressing Justice Stevens' opinion.

Risk of Pain Evident but Does Not Establish “Objectively Intolerable Risk of Harm”

On the same day the Supreme Court ruled lethal injection as Constitutional, it also heard arguments on a Louisiana case about whether the death penalty could be used in child rape cases. The two men found guilty of child rape are the only two men in the history of the U.S. that were sentenced to die even though no death occurred as a result of their crimes.

The death penalty is a hot issue in our country right now. Those facing such a sentence need an experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate legal team. These attorneys are literally fighting for their clients' lives. Understanding all of the legal options available and what defense strategies will be used can help a person facing the death penalty know exactly where he or she stands.