Supreme Court Review of Lethal Injection Case Encouraging, Says NYCLU

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
January 7, 2008 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case challenging the use of lethal injection to execute people. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Court’s decision to take the case is an encouraging development in the campaign to abolish the death penalty in the United States.

“The fact that the Court has suspended all executions throughout the country as it considers this case signals that at least five of the justices are prepared to reexamine the use of capital punishment,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “The death penalty is cruel, inhumane and an improper use of government power.”

The case, Baze v. Rees, challenges Kentucky’s use of a three-drug cocktail to kill people. The plaintiffs, who are death-row inmates, argue that the lethal injection procedure used in 35 states violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Capital punishment is an affront to civilized society no matter how the government decides to kill people. Lethal injection is touted as a painless way to die, when in fact it often causes excruciating pain. It is no less cruel or barbarous than the electric chair, the gas chamber, the gallows or the guillotine,” Lieberman said.

The NYCLU participated in a series of challenges to the New York death penalty law enacted in 1995. The New York State Court of Appeals declared that law unconstitutional in 2004.

A New York Law Journal column by NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn analyzing the Kentucky case and other death penalty jurisprudence is available online at:

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