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Supreme Court Allows Lethal Injection Challenge

In one of two major decisions handed down Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that inmates on death row could make last-minute claims that the chemicals in lethal injections are too painful and violate the Constitution's Eighth Amendment.

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    The high court decided two cases today impacting inmates on death row. Here to walk us through the decisions is NewsHour regular Marcia Coyle, Washington bureau chief for the National Law Journal.

    Now, let's start with the lethal injection case. Clarence Edward Hill has challenged his Florida murder verdict time and time again on various grounds, never prevailed. What did he go into court pleading this time?

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    Well, he was challenging the drugs that Florida uses to carry out lethal injections. He said that these drugs violated his civil rights because they cause or they resulted in unnecessary and gratuitous pain.

    Clarence Hill, like the second case we're going to discuss, Paul House, both men have in common the fact that they have been challenging their convictions for more than two decades, but also they both are pretty much at the end of the line, in terms of the kinds of claims they can bring in so-called habeas corpus petitions that federal courts will consider.

    That's why it was so important to Clarence Hill today to convince the Supreme Court that his challenge to these drugs was really a civil rights claim and not a habeas claim.

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