Executions in Texas, Alabama, and other Southern states with large death rows are likely to resume soon because of yesterday’s Supreme Court's decision upholding Kentucky's method of putting condemned prisoners to death, says the New York Times. The divided ruling may slow executions elsewhere as lawyers for death row inmates undertake fresh challenges based on its newly announced legal standards. “The decision will have the effect of widening the divide between executing states and symbolic states, states that have the death penalty on the books but rarely carry out executions,” said law Prof. Jordan Steiker of the University of Texas.
Death-penalty opponents said the case was little more than a road map for more litigation. “I think it opens the door,” said Elisabeth Semel, director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley. In a plurality opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said states with lethal injection protocols “substantially similar” to that used in Kentucky would be immune from challenges under a standard that requires death row inmates to prove not only a demonstrated risk of severe pain but also that the risk is substantial when compared with available alternatives. “Substantially similar?” said law Prof. Deborah Denno of Fordham University. “I'm not sure what that is or what that would constitute.”