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U.S. Supreme Court Rules 5-4 in Favor of Death Penalty
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Summary: Although midazolam has not been approved by the FDA for its usage in lethal injections, it is the only option since anti-death penalties groups have made the usual drugs unavailable.

After several days of landmark rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court mostly leaning to the side of liberal politics, conservatives can claim a victory. The Court ruled that the sedative Oklahoma uses in their three-drug cocktail does not violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


The case was arguing the use of midazolam, an anti-anxiety drug, which is administered first out of the three drugs to make the death row inmate unconscious. The next two drugs paralyze and then stop the heart. The inmates to bring the case against the state argued that since midazolam is not a barbiturate, it does not properly prevent the inmate from feeling pain.

The Court found that the inmates did not provide substantial evidence that the drug was cruel and unusual. Justice Sonia Sotomayor remarked in her dissenting vote that the decision “leaves petitioners exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake”. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority statement, calling her remarks “groundless”.

This case is the second in seven years that has examined the use of lethal injection. This case comes after several failed executions this year. Death penalty “abolitionists” have pressured manufacturers of the drugs used for the injections to stop producing them, forcing states to use other drugs. Oklahoma was using sodium thiopental or pentobarbital but without access to either drug they had to find another drug. Midazolam has not been approved by the FDA but many states are still using it. The botched execution of Clayton Lockett last year on Oklahoma with midazolam prompted the state to increase the dose and add a paralytic agent and potassium chloride.

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