Death Penalty

NYT and WaPo Oppose Ky. Lethal Injection Procedure

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The New York Times and the Washington Post have published editorials opposing Kentucky’s method of lethal injections as the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue today.

Both newspapers oppose capital punishment, but they say if it is allowed, it should be done humanely. Both say Kentucky’s three-drug cocktail does not meet that standard.

“There is considerable evidence that inmates do not go peacefully or easily,” the New York Times says. “Instead they are reported to feel suffocation, paralysis and excruciating pain. This is particularly true when poorly trained, unskilled workers are administering the drugs, which is all too often the case.”

The issue in the court case is what legal standard to apply in weighing the constitutionality of lethal injection. Kentucky argues states should be allowed to use a punishment method as long as it does not pose a substantial risk of the wanton infliction of pain. The death-row inmate challenging Kentucky’s procedure says it doesn’t meet the constitutional test if it carries an “unnecessary risk of pain and suffering.”

The Washington Post favors the latter standard. It also urges states to ban capital punishment altogether.

The Times asks the court to go beyond the narrow question of what legal standard to apply and to rule that Kentucky’s procedure violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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