Court’s Death Penalty Case Shows Abolitionists “Have A Lot More Work To Do”


The Supreme Court ruling yesterday allowing states to use the sedative midazolam in executions “seems like a big win for states seeking to move forward even with new and questionable execution methods,” says Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman in his Sentencing Law and Policy blog. Berman says the ruling “should provide lower court judges a much clearer standard and basis” for rejecting claims that various execution methods violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Even though Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that the death penalty is unconstitutional, Berman says “the fact that seven current Justices apparently do not question the death penalty’s essential constitutionality, including the five youngest Justices, suggests to me that abolitionists still have a lot more work to do before they can reasonable hope to see a majority of Justices find compelling a categorical constitutional ruling against capital punishment in all cases.” (Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt suggested yesterday that the executions of Richard Eugene Glossip, John Marion Grant and Benjamin Robert Cole be held between August and October, The Oklahoman reported.)

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