Death row inmate challenges constitutionality of death penalty

death-rowKenya 2015

A death row inmate in Oklahoma who unsuccessfully sought to ban a controversial drug used in lethal injections will ask the Supreme Court to consider if capital punishment is constitutional, his lawyer said Friday. Richard Glossip is one of three plaintiffs in a case brought before the Supreme Court about the use of the midazolam sedative in lethal injections. He is set to be executed on September 16.

The Supreme Court last month upheld the use of midazolam, saying it does not violate the Constitution. Glossip’s lawyer Dale Baich said Friday his client will now ask the court to consider whether the death penalty should be legal at all. At the time of the decision, Justice Stephen Breyer said it might be appropriate to revisit the question of capital punishment altogether. Breyer said the “circumstances and the evidence of the death penalty’s application have changed radically.” Glossip’s case “did not originally challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty,” Baich said, adding it was time to revisit the issue. “We’re asking the Supreme Court for a rehearing in light of Justice Breyer’s dissent,” Baich told AFP.

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“The issue of Richard’s innocence is critical, the question must be asked: Will an innocent man be executed?” He appealed to the court to consider the “unreliability, arbitrariness, delay, and decline in the application of capital punishment, which render such punishment unconstitutional under the 8th and 14th Amendments.” The Constitution’s 8th Amendment bars “cruel and unusual punishment,” while the 14th says all people, regardless of race, class, or gender, should have equal protection under the law. The Supreme Court, in an April 2008 decision, upheld the constitutionality of execution by lethal injection. But since then, a refusal by mainly European manufacturers to supply the required drugs has led states like Oklahoma to seek out alternatives, including midazolam and reignited the debate about capital punishment. Last year, several death row inmates took prolonged periods of time to die and some could be seen writhing in pain during the executions, which normally take about 10 minutes.

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