Gorsuch Sided With OK in Botched Execution

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Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has been front and center as Oklahoma’s death penalty process has been repeatedly called into question in recent years, siding with the government in key cases at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit over the state’s handling of executions, reports BuzzFeed. A few months ago, Gorsuch ruled against the estate of a man who was executed in one of the worst botched lethal injections in U.S. history. Gorsuch and two other judges ruled that it was an “innocent misadventure” or an “isolated mishap,” but not cruel and unusual punishment. In that case, Clayton Lockett’s estate sued Oklahoma for constitutional violations in his 43-minute execution. “Everyone acknowledges that Lockett suffered during his execution,” Judge Gregory Phillips wrote in a ruling against his estate, which Gorsuch signed onto. “Here, the Amended Complaint describes exactly the sort of ‘innocent misadventure’ or ‘isolated mishap’ that” a prior Supreme Court case “excuses from the definition of cruel and unusual punishment.” the court wrote. “Thus, Lockett’s suffering did not run afoul of the Eighth Amendment.”

Months later, the state nearly made the same mistake again, which led a grand jury to begin investigating the state’s mistakes. The state’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, said that some executioners were “careless, cavalier and in some circumstances dismissive of established procedures that were intended to guard against the very mistakes that occurred.” (Pruitt is Trump’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency.) Years before these mistakes happened, Gorsuch was one of the judges who upheld the use of midazolam as an execution sedative, as well as Oklahoma’s execution procedures.


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