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Supreme Court Votes 7-2 to Allow Lethal Injection

The Supreme Court voted Wednesday to uphold Kentucky's use of lethal injection, allowing the continuation of executions on hold since September. The court also heard arguments on the legality of the death penalty for child rapists. Marcia Coyle discusses the cases.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    One major decision and one important argument at the Supreme Court today, both involving the death penalty. Here to walk us through it all is NewsHour regular Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

    Marcia, thank you for being here again.

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    My pleasure, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, in a grim sense, this really was death penalty day at the Supreme Court.

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    First of all, walk us through the ruling on the death penalty by lethal injection.

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    This was a very closely watched case, because the federal government and approximately 36 states use a three-drug protocol to implement lethal-injection executions.

    The case was brought by two death row inmates from the state of Kentucky who challenged this three-drug protocol as violating the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

    They argued that Kentucky did not have proper safeguards in place to ensure that, when the drugs were administered, there was — the risk of pain was minimized.

    They said, if the first drug, which induced unconsciousness, was not properly administered, it would leave a death row inmate conscious and paralyzed after the second drug was administered, which induces paralysis.

    And, finally, that inmate would be paralyzed, conscious, and in extraordinary pain when the third drug was administered, which induces cardiac arrest and death.