The Supreme Court will review the drug protocol increasingly used in executions to determine whether the procedure violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Washington Post reports. It is the court's first examination of lethal injection since 2008. Last week, a majority of the court, over the objection of its four more liberal members, voted to allow the the execution of Charles Warner in Oklahoma. It takes only four of the nine Justices to accept a case. They will consider this spring a petition from three other inmates on Oklahoma's death row and issue a decision in June.
As the number of executions in the U.S. lags, the death penalty takes up an outsize portion of the Supreme Court's time. Capital punishment raises complicated and highly divisive questions about how to execute humanely the perpetrators of some of the most gruesome crimes. If the challengers prevail in the latest case, states that use lethal injection would have to find a different protocol. The court rejected a challenge to lethal injections in 2008. “Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' that qualifies as cruel and unusual,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.