We knew it was coming, and here it is:
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to consider the constitutionality of lethal injections in a case that could affect the way inmates are executed around the country.
[. . .]
Thehas previously made it easier for death row inmates to contest the lethal injections used across the country for executions.
But until Tuesday, the justices had never agreed to consider the fundamental question of whether the mix of drugs used in Kentucky and elsewhere violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
All 37 states that perform lethal injections use the same three-drug cocktail, but at least 10 states suspended its use after opponents alleged it was ineffective and cruel, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, I doubt lethal injections will be outlawed. If they are, however, then we'll need to find something more humane. Here's a suggestion from a dozen years ago, nitrogen asphyxiation:
Every condemned individual is aware of impending death in general, as a result of court proceedings, transport to the execution site, and preparation of the execution equipment. At the shortest time scale, however, nitrogen asphyxiation provides little warning of the moment when final unconsciousness arrives. The flow rate, pressure, humidity, and scent of both supplied gases could be made identical. The exchange valve could be designed for silent operation out of the subject's sight, and it might be operated at the moment of some other distraction, such as opening a screen between the subject and any legal witnesses. This minimal warning before final unconsciousness, combined with the absence of painful physical trauma, make this procedure arguably humane.
That gets to the heart of it. The cruelest part of capital punishment is the awareness of it coming, not the method of execution. This is all a little pointless, anyway. The people who keep bringing this up are against the death penalty in principle. If we finally arrive at letting inmates die in their sleep of old age as the method of execution, they'll file suit against that, too.