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Court drops one issue on lethal injection

The Supreme Court on Wednesday modified its order agreeing to rule on the constitutionality of a three-drug protocol used in carrying out the death penalty by lethal injection, dropping one of the four questions raised in the appeal. In an order amending its grant, the Court said it was confining its review to questions directly bearing on that protocol. The new order can be found here.

Thus, the question that will not be before the Court sought to test whether a state had a duty to have a medical team on hand at an execution to keep the inmate alive, if the process had been started but a court has stayed the execution before it was completed. That, too, was a constitutional question. The petition put it this way: “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?”  The petition can be found here.

The case that the Court agreed on Sept. 25 to hear is Baze v. Rees (07-5439). At the Justices’ Conference on Friday of this week, they will be considering a motion to expedite another lethal injection case — Taylor v. Crawford (07-303) — and to hear that case along with Baze. The Taylor petition raises some additional issues regarding that method of execution.

Cases: Baze v. Rees