Glossip v. Gross

Posted: June 16, 2015 by beguide in case summaries, Moral High Ground, Punishment
Tags: ,

WHAT HAPPENED: The State of Oklahoma uses a drug called Midazolam during the process of administering the death penalty.  The purpose of Midazolam is to ensure that defendants are put into a coma-like state prior to the administration of potassium chloride, which ends the inmate’s life.  The Plaintiffs in this case are suing to stop the use of Midazolam arguing that the drug has a ceiling-effect, which means that the drug stops working at a certain point, making the process of lethal injection horrifically painful for everyone associated, specifically the person sentenced to death.   The Plaintiffs lost at the lower levels before the Supreme Court, but have argued that the lower rulings are based on faulty evidence that is objectively incorrect.  The Defendants, i.e. the State administering the death penalty, argue that the lower court opinions are correct, that Midazolam is fine, and that “there’s nothing to see here folks”, as they gently nudge everyone out of the Courtroom.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: The Supreme Court created a test for when the death penalty violates the 8th Amendment, although likely begrudgingly.  This test states that any method of administering the death penalty cannot have an unreasonable risk that the causing the inmate substantial and unjustifiable harm, which is a standard the founding fathers would likely need considerable amount of explaining to understand.  In addition to proving this standard, the Plaintiff is also asking that the Court overrule the factual findings of the lower court, which is something the Supreme Court almost never does.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: This decision is not released yet.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: In the short term, nothing.  Even if this decision is reversed and remanded, the lower court will be forced to have another hearing on this subject, at which the State will likely provide a better expert who will just make their point more clearly and the case will be ruled in favor of the State.  In the grand scheme of things, should Midazolam be banned under the Constitution, it creates another small victory in favor of those looking to ban the death penalty outside of the governmental processes.  Justice Scalia touched on this during the oral argument, which is that this case is part of a bigger movement to ban the death penalty by making all the drugs used in the process either commercially or legally unavailable.  Banning Midazolam would go far in movement, since there are very few drugs that can do this task within the current Constitutional framework

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR GLOSSIP IF: enjoy seeing haughty government institutions and Supreme Court justices swallow bitter pill after bitter pill until their support of the death penalty is haphazardly put into a coma and then burned alive from the inside using potassium chloride.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR GROSS IF: you are gross because rooting for people to die is gross.

WHO WAS RIGHT: This case is not yet ruled on, but both Brett and Nazim believe that the ruling in favor of the State will be upheld by some majority greater than 5-4 but less than 7-2.

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Comments
  1. […] Alert!  The answer is no.  However, that did not stop the Court from hearing Glossip v. Gross, a case that determines whether or not a drug that sedates death row inmates before death violates […]

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