Rancor and Raw Emotion Surface in Supreme Court Death Penalty Ruling – The New York Times

Justice Gorsuch rejected that alternative. Nitrogen gas, he wrote, is not authorized by Missouri law and had never been used to carry out an execution in the United States. In dissent, Justice Breyer said that three states have authorized the use of nitrogen gas in executions.

Justice Gorsuch wrote that Mr. Bucklew had also not proved he would suffer less pain from nitrogen gas.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Thomas wrote that the court had made things too complicated. The Eighth Amendment bars only the deliberate infliction of pain, he wrote, and there was no evidence that Missouri had designed its lethal injection protocol to hurt Mr. Bucklew.

In dissent, Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, wrote that Mr. Bucklew may face an “excruciating and grotesque” punishment.

“Bucklew cites evidence,” Justice Breyer wrote, “that executing him by lethal injection will cause the tumors that grow in his throat to rupture during his execution, causing him to sputter, choke and suffocate on his own blood for up to several minutes before he dies.”

In a separate dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the majority’s emphasis on addressing delays in carrying out death sentences.

“There are higher values than ensuring that executions run on time,” she wrote. “If a death sentence or the manner in which it is carried out violates the Constitution, that stain can never come out. Our jurisprudence must remain one of vigilance and care, not one of dismissiveness.”


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