United States Supreme Court Says Use of Lethal Injection is Constitutional

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys - Group

Michigan Does Not Have the Death Penalty

Michigan does not have the death penalty in any form. However, the Supreme Court’s decision of whether death by lethal injection is unconstitutional could invalidate the death penalty nationwide.

On May 18, 1846, Michigan became the first English-speaking government to abolish the death penalty. The death penalty still exists in many states and the federal government. In early May 2015, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Glossip v Gross. It was asked to determine if the use of Midazolam (an opiate) as the first drug in the lethal injection process violated the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In prior decisions, the Supreme Court decided that the execution procedure only violated the Constitution if it presented an “objectively intolerable risk of harm that prevents prison officials from pleading that they were subjectively blameless for purposes of the Eighth Amendment.”

When the Supreme Court found death by lethal injection was constitutional unless there was an “objectively intolerable risk of harm,” a different series of drugs were used. The first drug used then was sodium thiopental, a barbiturate that causes deep general anesthesia where patients feel no pain. This allowed for administering the other drugs with no pain and suffering on the prisoner’s part. Midazolam, the drug at issue before the court, is simply a sedative. When the second drug is administered, the patient is paralyzed but still conscious, and then respiration stops, and the third drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart. As the potassium chloride enters the bloodstream, it causes intense burning pain. The patient cannot react because of the paralysis but can feel it because they are still conscious.

Why can’t states get sodium thiopental anymore? Because countries that object to the death penalty are refusing to sell it.

The constitutional question is does the use of Midazolam cause the “death by lethal injection” process to be cruel and unusual and, therefore, a violation of the 8th Amendment.

In a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court found that Midazolam does not violate the United States Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But since this Opinion, Midazolam has also become challenging to obtain.

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LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. is Michigan’s premier criminal defense law firm. Our attorneys pride themselves in constantly learning and reading about criminal law and the United States Constitution. It is essential that we are more prepared and knowledgeable than anyone else when entering a courtroom. When our attorneys represent a person charged with a criminal offense, we treat them with dignity and respect and ensure they are given the premier defense they deserve. Clients are treated like family – nothing but the best will do.

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