The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a Georgia death row inmate who should be executed by firing squad instead of lethal injection, which is currently the only official method of execution in the state.
Michael Nance was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2002 for shooting a close person after a bank robbery in 1993.
Nance argued in the petition that the sedatives used in the lethal injection protocol would fail to “anesthetize” him due to the medication he was taking for back pain and that his veins were “severely compromised,” which could lead to “severe pain and inflammation.”
On the other hand, he argued that hanging by a firing squad would result in a “quick and literally painless” death.
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Justice Elena Kagan wrote for a 5-4 majority in Thursday’s vote that Nance could challenge the state’s execution system through a civil rights lawsuit.
“The death penalty prisoner may attempt to show that the state’s planned execution method violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment, either on his face or as applied to him,” Kagan wrote.
Kagan was represented by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Cavano, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
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Justice Amy Connie Barrett wrote the dissent, arguing that the court was “looking too far down the street.”
“In my opinion, the outcome of the concession that the prisoner seeks depends on the state law that currently exists,” Barrett wrote. “And under existing state law, the question of whether Nance’s challenge should indicate the illegality of his lethal injection sentence does not arise: he seeks to prevent the state from executing him as much as possible by law.”
She was joined by Justices Samuel Aletito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gores.