U.S. Supreme Court debates lethal injection
The main issue is whether the current three-drug method of lethal injection would be more humane if it involved only one drug, as there would be less chance of a botched execution.
The decision will be significant because lethal injection is the most common method of execution in the United States. Thirty-six of the 37 states that have the death penalty use the three-drug method of lethal injection.
Should the death penalty be painless?
Morning Edition, January 7, 2008 · On Monday, the U.S. Supreme court examines whether lethal injection, the method used to execute convicted killers in almost all the states that have the death penalty, is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.
This is the first time in more than a century the court has examined a method of execution. It does so at a time when public support for capital punishment is declining and DNA proof has exonerated 15 men on death row.
In a previous lethal injection case that did not directly challenge the method of execution, some members of the court seemed to indicate they see no constitutional requirement for a painless execution. Others indicated that the state may have an obligation to execute prisoners in the most humane way possible.
For now, the court has blocked all executions so that no prisoner will die while it considers the issue. But by summer, the court will have some answers to the questions about what is and is not acceptable in executions by lethal injection.