So Far, No Supreme Court Justice Dissents On Execution Drug Secrecy


No Supreme Court justice objected publicly when the court voted to let Arizona execute Joseph Wood, who unsuccessfully sought information about the drugs that would be used to kill him, the Associated Press reports. Inmates in Florida and Missouri went to their deaths by lethal injection in preceding weeks after the high court refused to block their executions. No justice said the executions should be stopped. Even as the number of executions annually has dropped by more than half over the past 15 years and the court has barred states from killing juveniles and the mentally disabled, no justice has emerged as a principled opponent of the death penalty.

Former Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall dissented every time their colleagues ruled against death row inmates. Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens, near the end of their careers, came to view capital punishment as unconstitutional. “They’re all voting to kill them, every so often. They do it in a very workmanlike, technocratic fashion,” said Georgia death penalty lawyer Stephen Bright. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she and her colleagues are aware of what happened in Arizona, though she declined to say how the court would rule on a plea to stop the next scheduled execution — of Michael Worthington on Wednesday in Missouri. “Your crystal ball is as good as mine,” she said last week.

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