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TriQuarterly Journal



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Lethal injection is this country's primary method of execution, adopted for use by all but one of the thirty-seven death penalty states, as well as the federal government. It is predictable, then, that questions would arise the moment such a widely accepted form of punishment becomes especially vulnerable to an Eighth Amendment attack, as recent cases have shown. This article discusses this author's involvement as an expert in one of these cases, Baze v. Rees, which concerned a 2005 challenge to the constitutionality of lethal injection in Kentucky. While the Baze court upheld the constitutionality of Kentucky's lethal injection procedure, the opinion also revealed some extraordinary and unprecedented statements about the flaws of lethal injection as well as recommendations for how it should be improved. For example, the court found it cruel and unusual for the state's lethal injection protocol to enable an inmate's neck to be catheterized, a decision influenced by a department of corrections doctor who testified he would refuse to conduct the procedure, and that those who would were unqualified to do so. Baze is one of a series of opinions demonstrating that the more we know about how lethal injection is administered, the more problems we find with this means of execution.

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