WASHINGTON (AP) — The three liberal Supreme Court justices criticized their conservative colleagues for allowing the execution Friday morning of an Alabama death row inmate who had raised claims about the state’s history of botching the lethal injection process.
The court, which has a 6-3 Conservative majority, refused to block the execution of James Barber, who was executed around 2am local time.
«This court’s decision denying Barber’s request for a stay allows Alabama to once again experiment with a human life,» Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a statement. dissenting opinion along with his liberal colleagues, Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Barber had argued that the execution would violate his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
His claim was raised in light of the state’s failure to execute three inmates last year. Two of those executions, those of Alan Miller and Kenneth Smith, were eventually called off when prison officials were unable to access a suitable vein. Another inmate, Joe James, was executed only after a three-hour delay.
The state subsequently revised its procedures, which was enough to convince the Supreme Court and lower courts that the execution could go ahead.
The Supreme Court’s brief order did not explain its reasoning for allowing Barber’s execution.
“Today’s decision is yet another troubling example of this court hampering the development of Eighth Amendment law by pushing for executions without full information,” Sotomayor wrote.
He noted that, in both the Miller and Smith cases, the court had reversed lower courts that had stayed executions.
Had he not done that, «perhaps the state would have been compelled to present evidence in discovery that could explain what continued to go wrong and avoid inflicting unnecessary pain on these two men,» he added.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority generally allows executions to go ahead, and death penalty advocates criticize last-minute court submissions that they say are aimed solely at delaying the process. During oral argument in a 2015 case, conservative Justice Samuel Alito referred to such tactics as «guerrilla warfare against the death penalty.»