Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Baze v. Rees is a case from two Kentucky death row inmates in which the justices are likely to decide what standard should be used in determining whether lethal-injection procedures violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawyers for death row inmates say the standard should be whether the procedures "create a significant and unnecessary risk of inflicting severe pain that could be prevented by the adoption of reasonable safeguards."

The state of Kentucky says a prohibited procedure must create "substantial risk of wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, torture, or lingering death."

The Bush administration, supporting Kentucky, says the standard should be whether there is "a substantial risk that the method would inflict a significantly greater degree of pain than a feasible alternative method and officials act with deliberate indifference to that risk."

Texas, the national leader in executions, and 19 other states supporting Kentucky say that when there is a national consensus for the execution method, as there is with lethal injection, the court should "engage in a limited inquiry into whether the challenged method is both inherently cruel and unusual."

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