Political News

High Court Will Hear Lethal Injection Case

Posted September 25, 2007 11:02 a.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2007 12:04 p.m. EDT

Death Row, Death Penalty, prisoner

— The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to consider the constitutionality of lethal injections in the case of two death row inmates from Kentucky.

The high court will hear a challenge from convicted killer Ralph Baze and fellow death row inmate Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr. The two inmates sued Kentucky in 2004, claiming lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Baze's execution had been scheduled for Tuesday night, but the Kentucky Supreme Court halted the proceedings earlier this month.

"This is probably one of the most important cases in decades as it relates to the death penalty," said David Barron, the public defender who represents Baze and Bowling.

North Carolina's use of lethal injection has been tied up in the courts for months after the North Carolina Medical Board adopted a policy that threatened to revoke the medical licenses from physicians who participate in executions.

A judge last week ruled that the medical board had overstepped its authority and couldn't punish physicians for taking part in a state-sanctioned execution.

The Council of State, a nine-member board that includes Gov. Mike Easley and other statewide elected officials, is expected to discuss North Carolina's execution protocol next month. An administrative law judge ruled last month that the officials need to consider input from attorneys representing death-row inmates before adjusting the protocol to ensure condemned inmates don't suffer during executions.