The Supreme Court said today that a convicted Alabama murderer can pursue an appeal arguing that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment in his case. The Associated Press said the justices unanimously overturned rulings that had blocked appeals by David Larry Nelson, who was under three hours from execution last fall when the high court granted a temporary reprieve.
Nelson’s case is unusual because he says that his veins have been damaged by drug use, making it impossible to insert an intravenous line without cutting deep into flesh and muscle.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said Nelson should be allowed to argue that his punishment would violate the Constitutions’ ban on cruel and unusual punishments unless special precautions were taken. O’Connor said the court would not “open the floodgates to all manner of method-of-execution challenges,” as Alabama charged. Challenges are pending to execution methods in other states.