The electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday, says the New York Times. The decision suspended executions there, as Nebraska is the only state that still relies solely on electrocution, once the dominant U.S. form of execution. Now, Nebraska may opt for a form of lethal injection that does not rely on the combination of three chemicals that is the subject of a pending challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. It may also explore entirely different methods of execution. Seven states allow some inmates to choose electrocution instead of lethal injection. Two others, Illinois and Oklahoma, designated electrocution as the fallback method if lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional.
Electric chairs now are “essentially being relegated to a museum,’ said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. Nebraska has executed only three prisoners since 1976, the last one in 1997. In the Supreme Court case, lawyers for inmates have said that using the single drug common in veterinary euthanasia would avoid what they called the possibility of excruciating pain inherent in the three-chemical combination. The high court has never held a method of execution to be unconstitutional.