From: freebeacon.com, by Charles Fain Lehman, on Apr 21, 2017
New Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote Thursday to permit Arkansas to proceed with the execution of Ledell Lee.
The state intends to carry out at least three more executions before its supply of a controversial execution drug expires, Bloomberg reported.
Gorsuch joined the right of the court–Justices Roberts, Thomas, and Alito–as well as Republican-appointed swing-vote Anthony Kennedy in voting to allow the execution to go forward. The court’s liberal wing–Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan–dissented, each voting to grant at least one of the stays.
“Apparently the reason the state decided to proceed with these eight executions is that the ‘use by’ date of the state’s execution drug is about to expire,” wrote Justice Breyer in explaining his vote. “That factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random.”
Lee’s execution was one of several halted by lower courts that were subsequently allowed to go forward by the Supreme Court. Justice Samuel Alito, who is responsible for emergency appeals from Arkansas, initially ordered a temporary hold to allow consideration of new filings by Lee.
Lee, who had consistently maintained his innocence, was seeking DNA tests that his lawyers said could prove his claim.
The court had earlier in the week declined to step in and overturn the Arkansas Supreme Court’s stay of execution in the case of two condemned men whose cases bear resemblance to an Alabama case the Supreme Court will soon consider.
Initially, Arkansas had intended to put Lee and seven other men to death in the span of just 11 days, racing against the clock of the expiration of one of the drugs in the state’s chemical execution cocktail. The pace prompted several legal challenges, resulting in the executions being stayed by lower courts. Gorsuch and his colleagues’ votes overrode these stays, rejecting arguments that the pace and manner of Arkansas’ executions made them unjust.
The potentially expiring drug is the powerful sedative Midazolam, which has drawn criticism because of its involvement in several botched executions, notably the death of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in 2014. The drug can allegedly cause torturous executions, with condemned prisoners visibly twisting and contorting in pain.
The Supreme Court examined the use of Midazolam in the 2015 case Glossip v. Gross, ultimately ruling that its use did not violate the Eight Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” Nonetheless, the condemned men’s attorneys argued that the use of Midazolam might lead to an unnecessarily painful death, especially given the rate at which the executions were to be carried out. According to journalists present, Lee exhibited no visible response after the lethal injection was administered.
Lee was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of Debra Reese, who he robbed, strangled, and beat to death with a tire iron. Lee’s family members were present at the execution and said they believed Lee deserved to be executed for his crime.
Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 PM CDT on Thursday. He is the first inmate Arkansas has executed since 2005.
It is reassuring to see our newest Supreme Court Justice cast his vote to allow an execution to proceed, I hope his subsequent opinions continue to support conservative positions. Since Arkansas hasn’t executed anyone since 2005, any deterrence related to execution has evaporated. If we are to deter murder, we need to instill in the perpetrators the concept that: they will be caught, they’ll stand trial, and the verdict will be carried out swiftly.
It’s said that in order for punishment to be a deterrence, it must be swift, certain, and severe.
Severe is the only one of those requirements that our current execution policies meet. It is not certain, given the number of appeals that could go on for years, even in the face of unassailable evidence reviewed in their trials. No, my beef is the overall time required to adjudicate the verdict. In this case, Ledell Lee was found guilty and given the death penalty for his murder of a young woman in 1993. He was convicted in 1995. That amounts to 22 years between his conviction and the verdict being carried out. Is that supposed to be “swift“?
There’s one of your answers to why so many murders are committed each year in the U.S., we have no deterrent factor, not when it could come twenty years down the road – if at all.
I believe that if our system of justice is to survive – and help us survive – it really does need to be swift, certain, and the punishment severe. We need to rely on our laws, our courts, and our juries to fairly try an accused and come to a verdict that is fair and fitting. Yes, it is possible to wrongly convict someone, but much less so today than in years past. I believe that we could establish a reward system whereby if a wrongly executed person was later found to be innocent, he or she should be honored as a hero of the system, having given up their lives for our justice system, and awarded a sizeable judgment. No, that won’t bring back the wrongly executed individual, but that is the price we must pay to prevent truly guilty murderers from being released.
We must streamline our justice system and a large part of that is to reestablish punishment as a deterrence by making it SWIFT, CERTAIN, and SEVERE.