In addition to the main brief submitted by the Petitioner in Baze v. Rees, several amicus curiae briefs have been filed in support of the inmates from Kentucky who are challenging the constitutionality of lethal injections as practiced in their state before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is likely to be heard in January 2008 and decided by June. It appears that executions around the country have been put on hold pending the Court’s decision.

The amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs submitted include:

  • The Death Penalty Clinic at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law. This “litigants” brief details how lethal injection executions are performed by “untrained, unqualified prison employees using inadequate equipment and following incomprehensible protocols.” The Clinic surveyed thousands of pages of documents from more than a dozen states, concluding that states have “turned a blind eye” to the forseeable problems inherent in the three-drug lethal injection formula.
  • The Lewis Stein Center for Law & Ethics at the Fordham University School of Law. This brief describes the history of the three-drug lethal injection protocol used in virtually every death penalty state, and the movement toward methods of execution that were consistent with “evolving standards of decency.” The brief presents evidence that the present method of lethal injection was not the result of an informed deliberative process.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union and the Rutherford Institute. Arguing that lethal injections violate the Eighth Amendment, this brief shows how “lethal injection procedures and executions have been, and continue to be, shrouded in secrecy.”
  • Physicians and nurses, with a range of expertise in fields such as medical ethics, critical care, end-of-life care, pharmacology and anesthesiology. The brief informs the Court that “the medical and medical ethics communities have rejected the introduction of neuromuscular blocking agents” used in lethal injection executions because of the “significant risks” that they pose.
  • Veterinarians, with extensive experienced in veterinary anesthesia. According to this brief, “Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol would not meet the minimum standards for the humane euthanization of animals.” The brief further explores other risks associated with the chemicals used in Kentucky’s current protocol.
  • Human Rights Watch. The brief argues that the Court’s “Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has looked to international standards and practices in giving meaning to the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment,” and that it should do so in deciding Baze.

The briefs filed by various amici, as well as the Petitioner’s brief, are available here. (Source: Death Penalty Clinic, U.C. Berkeley School of Law, Nov. 13, 2007). See also DPIC’s Supreme Court and Lethal Injection pages.