With two dissents, the high court said Alabama may reschedule the execution of Tommy Arthur, who has been on death row for three decades. Justice Sonia Sotomayor would have heard the appeal, saying Arthur presented evidence that the state’s lethal injection procedures “will result in intolerable and needless agony.”
Alabama is the only state that permits judges to overrule a jury’s recommendation and sentence a defendant to death, a practice sharply criticized by the Equal Justice Initiative, an advocacy group based in the state. After gaining bipartisan approval by a House committee, a proposal to end the overrides moves on to broader legislative consideration.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich delayed eight scheduled executions after a federal magistrate declared the state’s death penalty unconstitutional in a dispute over the drug protocol. Kasich believes Ohio will win an appeal.
John Henry Ramirez, 32, was to be put to death for a 2004 slaying during a robbery. A federal judge halted the scheduled execution, ruling that Ramirez’s previous lawyer left him “effectively without counsel.”
The Supreme Court nominee ruled against the estate of a man who was executed in despite mistakes in administering a lethal injection. Gorsuch and two other judges ruled that it was an “innocent misadventure” or an “isolated mishap,” but not cruel and unusual punishment.
Magistrate Judge Michael Merz declared Ohio’s new lethal injection process unconstitutional and delayed three scheduled executions, starting with Ronald Phillips on Feb. 15. Ohio has not put someone to death since January 2014.
Alabama is the only state that lets judges overrule juries and impose death sentences, which has happened 107 times in four decades. A year ago, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against a similar capital punishment protocol in Florida.