The United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the Kentucky case known as Baze v. Rees. Ralph Baze and Thomas C. Bowling, inmates on Kentucky’s death row, are asking the Court to consider – for the first time in over 100 years – whether a particular method of execution violates the 8th Amendment‘s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Baze has asked the Court to decide:
- Does the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibit means for carrying out a method of execution that create an unnecessary risk of pain and suffering as opposed to only a substantial risk of the wanton infliction of pain?
- Do the means for carrying out an execution cause an unnecessary risk of pain and suffering in violation of the Eighth Amendment upon a showing that readily available alternatives that pose less risk of pain and suffering could be used?
- Does the continued use of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, individually or together, violate the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment because lethal injections can be carried out by using other chemicals that pose less risk of pain and suffering?
- When it is known that the effects of the chemicals could be reversed if the proper actions are taken, does substantive due process require a state to be prepared to maintain life in case a stay of execution is granted after the lethal injection chemicals are injected?