Yesterday afternoon the US Supreme Court decided that the 8th Amendment is merely a useless appendage and denied Billy Ray Irick's request for a stay of execution.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor wasn't having any of it. In her dissent she pointed out all of the problems with using midazolam as the first drug in a lethal cocktail. She wrote that the drug will cause Mr. Irick to feel the sensation of drowning, suffocating and being burned alive. She referred to the testimony given in Tennessee's recent trial over the legality of the three drug cocktail. She pointed out that once the paralytic takes effect, no one will know whether or not Mr. Irick is suffering because he will be unable to move and unable to speak.
She also referred to the absurdity of the Glossip decision's holding that the condemned inmate must not only present evidence that the state's selected method of execution is cruel but must also propose an alternative method to killing himself.
But she saved the best for last:
In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the Court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the State of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody, while shrouding him behind a veneer of paralysis. I cannot in good conscience join this "rush to execute" without first seeking every assurance that our precedent permits such a result. If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that Irick may well experience, then we have stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism. I dissent.
Unfortunately I think we long ago accepted barbarism in this country.