The Supreme Court of the United States has made many difficult decisions on various controversial cases throughout history. The decisions made in the court are extremely significant because each decision acts as a guide for future situations. One of these controversial cases, Glossip v Gross, incited protests and demonstrations against the final decision of the case. On April 29, 2014, Clayton Lockett was executed by lethal injection. However, the injection was not administered properly resulting in Lockett experiencing excruciating pain and suffering. In response to this, Charles Warner and 20 other death row inmates sued in the Oklahoma District Courts, arguing that the procedure for the lethal injection was in violation of the eighth amendment which protects Americans from cruel and unusual punishments.
Specifically, they were against the use of midazolam, a component of a three-part drug “cocktail” that is supposed to render the user unconscious. Following this, Warner and three other inmates requested a preliminary injunction prohibiting the use of midazolam in their executions. However, the request was denied and affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, resulting in the execution of Warner. As the situation gained more spotlight, Glossip, one of the other death row prisoners, petitioned for the writ of certiorari and the case was accepted by the Supreme Court. Did the use of midazolam, an unreliable sedative, violate the eighth amendment? On April 29, 2015, the situation was argued in the Supreme Court and on June 29 of the same year, a decision was reached. The court ruled that the use of midazolam in the lethal injection did not violate the eighth amendment, stating there was a lack of evidence that the drug induced serious pain and that the petitioners did not offer an alternative.
However, the court should have ruled the other way and supported the notion that the use of this specific type of drug should be illegal because of its unreliability. This mistake has caused and will continue to cause negative ramifications to the United States by creating future problems that will inevitably invite more controversy. The idea that midazolam is an unreliable sedative is not based on arguments to find faults with the drug, but rather it is based on concrete evidence. Lockett was not the only inmate who suffered a botched execution. He and other inmates experienced the same painful suffering. The main point of the use of midazolam was to render the user unconscious so he/she does not have to experience the excruciating pain of the other two drugs in the cocktail.
However, because the midazolam was not administered properly, Lockett awoke during the middle of his execution when he was supposed to be fully unconscious and unable to feel any pain. Thus, he felt the painful effects of the other two drugs. “He groaned, writhed, lifted his head and shoulders off the gurney and said ‘man’(Fretland, The Guardian).” Just understanding the fact that Lockett underwent such an experience may cause some to question whether the use of such drug is morally correct.
However, the fact that government officials were informed about the potential unreliability of the drug only supports the notion that the use of midazolam in the lethal injection is unconstitutional. “Despite prolonged litigation and numerous warnings from defense attorneys about the dangers of using an experimental drug protocol with the drug midazolam, Oklahoma went ahead and scheduled the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner(“Botched Executions”).” Not only were Oklahoma officials informed about the shaky nature of the drug, but they were also warned several times about the potential dangers that the drug could bring. This causes many to believe this execution was a cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the eighth amendment. Because of the decision of the Supreme Court, the use of midazolam is now legal and can be used in the executions today. That means that botched lethal injections will continue to occur, which will cause inconceivable pain to death row inmates.
Some who believe that the use of the drug should be allowed may pose a question: Why not just administer more midazolam to ensure that the user is fully unconscious? Justice Sotomayor addressed this question in her dissenting opinion stating, “three experts recognized that midazolam is subject to a ceiling effect, which means that there is a point at which increasing the dose of the drug does not result in any greater effect(Sotomayor, “Glossip v. Gross, 576 U.S. ___ (2015)”) .” No matter how big the dose of midazolam is, it will peak at some point. This solidifies the idea that midazolam should not be used in the lethal injection procedure at all. The ruling made by the Supreme Court allowing the use of midazolam can also potentially cause problems in the future. The decision made in this case can be interpreted falsely and may allow the use of other untested and unreliable drugs in lethal injection procedures. If these untested drugs are continually used in these executions, arguments could be made that the pain that is caused by these drugs is constitutional. The eighth amendment protects Americans from experiencing cruel and unusual punishments, but because of this decision, these horrible executions will be legal.
Overall, the Supreme Court should have banned the use of midazolam in executions. Not only does it violate the eighth amendment, but it is morally unacceptable. The effect of this decision is that the drug, which is used in executions today, can still be wrongfully administered, causing botched executions. Additionally, the fact that the Supreme Court ruled this way may potentially allow other unreliable and untested drugs to be used in these executions. Thus, the Supreme Court should have decided that the use of midazolam is illegal in execution procedures.
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