US Supreme Court hearing over use of lethal injection drug midazolam

The US Supreme Court will today hear evidence in a case challenging the use of the drug midazolam in lethal injection executions. Midazolam has been implicated in several botched executions.

In 2008, the Court upheld a three drug protocol for lethal injections. The first drug, a barbiturate, causes a “deep, comalike unconsciousness” which ensures that the prisoner does not experience pain from the paralyzing second drug, or the third drug, which induces cardiac arrest. The Court acknowledged that administering the second and third drugs to someone who was not deeply anesthetized would inflict an unconstitutional degree of pain and suffering.

Four US states have used midazolam as the first drug, but three have reported executions that did not go as planned, with one case where a prisoner took two hours to die.

In 2014, 35 people were executed in the United States.