By DAVID STOUT: New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Kentucky’s method of putting criminals to death by lethal injection, not only clearing the way for Kentucky to resume executions but also for other states to do so. But one justice predicted that the ruling would not end disputes over lethal injection and could reignite the debate over capital punishment itself.
Text of the Opinion (pdf)
Alluding to the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, the court said history leads to the conclusion that “an execution method violates the Eighth Amendment only if it is deliberately designed to inflict pain,” a standard that bars disemboweling, burning alive and other excruciating ways of bringing about death. “Judged under that standard, this is an easy case,” the court held.
“In the past three decades, however, each of these rationales has been called into question,” Justice Stevens said. The possibility of a life sentence without parole, he said, has often caused people to soften their positions in favor of inflicting death.