Death Penalty Ohio

This November 2005, file photo, shows the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. The Ohio Supreme Court is weighing arguments by death row inmate Romell Broom that allowing the state prisons agency to try again to execute him amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and double jeopardy. The court planned to hear arguments Tuesday, June 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

In a 5-4 decision on June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court determined as constitutional,  the use of a drug that played a key role in an Oklahoma execution which was botched last year. The Court claimed arguments decrying its use did not prove it met the definition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Chief Justice John Roberts along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito approved the sedative midazolam for being used in executions.

“Because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain,” said Alito, who wrote the majority opinion.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, however, opposed the drug, with Justice Sotomayor writing the dissent.

“Petitioners contend that Oklahoma’s current protocol is a barbarous method of punishment — the chemical equivalent of being burned alive,” Sotomayor wrote.

Midazolam was used as a replacement drug in the execution of Clayton Darrell Lockett, 38, a Black man who died at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on April 29, 2014. According to the New York Times, the sedative was also used in two other “long and apparently painful executions” in that same year.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, midazolam has been used in Oklahoma and Florida as the first drug in a three drug protocol for lethal injections.