The Supreme Court has halted the scheduled executions of three death-row plaintiffs who are challenging Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The high court case, likely to be argued in April, will examine whether Oklahoma's three-drug protocol for lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Executing a death-row plaintiff before the court hears his case is not unheard of. The Oklahoma case originally featured four death-row plaintiffs, but one was put to death before the Supreme Court agreed to take up the lethal injection case. Specifically at issue in the Supreme Court challenge is whether the first drug administered in the execution process – midazolam – is effective in rendering the condemned prisoner into a coma-like unconsciousness before the other two drugs are administered. Lawyers for inmates have expressed fear that if the first drug is ineffective, their clients will be subject to intense pain when the second and third drugs are administered.