ACLU Urges Supreme Court to Strike Down Kentucky's Lethal Injection Procedures

January 7, 2008 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Describing the three-drug cocktail used in most states’ lethal injection executions as unnecessarily cruel, the American Civil Liberties Union urged the U.S. Supreme Court to halt its use in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in Baze v. Rees, which is being argued today. The lethal injection procedures as practiced in Kentucky amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, the ACLU charged.

“However one feels about the death penalty, it is unconscionable that states insist on executing people with a drug formula veterinarians won’t even use to put cats and dogs to sleep because of the risk of inflicting excruciating pain,” said ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro. “The Supreme Court ought to reject a lethal injection protocol that is completely at odds with civilized standards of decency and American values.”

The case, an appeal by two men on Kentucky’s death row, has resulted in a de facto death penalty moratorium nationwide. In its brief, the ACLU argues that the controversial execution practice has been facilitated by the excessive secrecy surrounding the development and implementation of lethal injection protocols in most states.

“While the lethal injection drug formula is clearly unconstitutional, the bigger problem is the death penalty itself,” said John Holdridge, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. “With record numbers of death row exonerations and states like New Jersey outlawing capital punishment altogether, there is a growing consensus that the death penalty doesn’t work. State-endorsed killing is the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment.”

The ACLU’s friend-of-the-court brief in Baze v. Rees is online at:

More information on the work of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project is available at:

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