Supreme Court: The U.S. Constitution Doesn’t Guarantee A Pain-Free Execution

Justice GorsuchCredit: Public Domain

Justice Gorsuch wrote that the 8th amendment does not guarantee a pain-free execution.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not ensure a "painless death" for convicted murderers. The ruling dictates that authorities may execute a Missouri inmate by lethal injection despite a rare medical condition that could result in suffocation.

In a 5-4 decision, the court rejected inmate Russel Bucklew's appeal. Bucklew argued that the state must use a different method, such as lethal gas, to execute him. According to the Los Angeles Times, Bucklew had been on death row for almost 20 years, but "less than two weeks before his scheduled execution," he raised his argument about the injections, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said.

“The 8th Amendment has never been understood to guarantee a condemned inmate a painless death,” Gorsuch said. “What the 8th Amendment does guarantee is a method of execution that’s not ‘cruel and unusual.’ And ever since the founding, people have understood that the only way to tell if a method is cruel is to compare it with other known and available alternatives, to see if the state is inflicting substantially more pain than necessary to carry out its lawful sentence.”

Last year, the justices halted his execution when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy sided with the four liberals in another 5-4 vote. But after considering the entire appeal, the court rejected his claim. Recently appointed Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who filled the position vacated by Kennedy, sided with the other four conservatives in the majority.

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