The U.S. Supreme Court last week ruled that Kentucky’s lethal injection procedure did not amount to cruel and unusual punishment, clearing the way for states to resume executions by lethal injection. But many states, including California, are still wrestling with how to handle lethal injections, so the debate over the procedure continues. (Sacramento Bee)
What the commentators said
The justices did the right thing, said the National Review in an editorial. Lawyers for Ralph Baze, who shot a Kentucky sheriff and his deputy in the back 16 years ago, claimed that lethal injection violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment and was therefore unconstitutional. But lethal injection is far from unusual—it is used by 36 states, making it “the most widespread form of execution in the country.” And it may be “the most humane method of administering death” available. In any case, if this country is to change anything about capital punishment, the fight should be in state legislatures, not the courts.
Hear that, lawmakers? That argument “misses the point,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial (free registration). It’s up to you to end this “anachronistic and inhumane punishment." Capital punishment represents, as former death-penalty supporter Justice John Paul Stevens said in a dissenting opinion, “the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes.”
“In our view, states should not be in the business of killing anyone,” said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). “But as long as they are,” the debate about capital punishment should never end. The justices’ 7-2 decision ends a moratorium on executions, but their splintered, 97-page opinion should not end the public discussion of “alternatives that may be more humane and reliable and less likely to impose unnecessary pain.”