Monday, January 26, 2015

Glossip, Grant, and Cole. Not Warner

Question 1: Is it constitutionally permissible for a state to carry out an execution using a three-drug protocol where (a) there is a well-established scientific consensus that the first drug has no pain relieving properties and cannot reliably produce deep, comalike unconsciousness, and (b) it is undisputed that there is a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of pain and suffering from the administration of the second and third drugs when a prisoner is conscious.
Question 2: Does the Baze-plurality stay standard apply when states are not using a protocol substantially similar to the one that this Court considered in Baze?
Question 3: Must a prisoner establish the availability of an alternative drug formula even if the state’s lethal-injection protocol, as properly administered, will violate the Eighth Amendment?
Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Glossip v. Gross, a case out of Oklahoma brought by death row inmates Richard Glossip, John Grant, and Benjamin Cole, and answer those questions this term.

Glossip's on death row for the murder of Barry Van Treese. It's not that he actually killed Treese. Justin Sneed did that, beat Treese to death with a baseball bat. Sneed confessed to the killing and said that he did it 'cause Glossip promised him $10,000 if he'd do it. Sneed's sentenced to LWOP, death in prison. Glossip's sentenced to be killed. It's supposed to be done later this week, on Thursday.

Grant had served about 18 years of a 130 year sentence when he killed Gay Carter, a corrections worker, stabbed her to death with a shank. Then he tried to stab himself to death, but the corrections oficers stopped him. You know, it wasn't his call when he'd die. They'd get to decide when he was killed. As it stands now, Grant's killing is scheduled for next month, Feb. 19.

Cole killed his nine-month-old daughter, Brianna.  She was crying and making it tough for him to concentrate on the video games he was playing.  When she stopped crying, he went back to the games.  They plan to kill him March 5.

It's perhaps worth noting that when the petition for writ of certiorari was filed, Glossip wasn't the first named petitioner.  That honor went to Charles Warner.  On January 15, a week before the Court agreed to hear the case, it decided 5-4 (dissent by Sotomayor, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan, reproduced below) to let Oklahoma kill Warner.  Which it did that night.  

The ones in the robes haven't yet decided - at least they haven't gone public with a decision - whether to let Glossip or Grant or Cole be killed before ruling on their case.  It'd be unseemly.  Then again, they've done it before.  It was 1990, and James Smith was killed by Texas after 4 of the 9 in Washington had voted to hear his case but there wasn't a fifth vote to keep him alive long enough for that to happen.

Richard Glossip this week?  We'll see.

But while we wait, contemplate that third question the Court agreed to decide.  Will the state be allowed to torture an inmate to death, in violation of the Constitution, unless he can tell the how they can go about killing him properly?  Lower courts have regularly been saying the state can.  Damn, they gotta have some way of killing.  You want it to be constitutional, then give 'em a road map. Otherwise . . . .

Hey, you had a chance to convince us that you had a better way to be killed.  We can't help it, and won't help you, if you just dump it on us. 

Ohio, of course, is planning to keep everything secret.  It's pretty cool.  If they don't tell the guy how they're gonna kill him, then he can't really complain that they'll do it unconstitutionally.  And they've made it illegal to tell.  That's just moving into federal court here.

Welcome to 2015.  We've already killed four men this year:
  • Andrew Brannan - Georgia
  • Johnny Kormondy - Florida
  • Charles Warner - Oklahoma
  • Arnold Prieto - Texas
Will Glossip slow the parade for a few months?  We should begin getting an answer later this week.

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