In Glossip v. Gross the Supreme Court held 5-4 that death row inmates are unlikely to succeed on their claim that using midazolam as a lethal injection drug amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

All death penalty states and the federal government use lethal injection. In Baze v. Rees (2008) the Court approved a three-drug protocol that begins with a sedative, sodium thiopental, followed by a paralytic agent and a drug that causes cardiac arrest. Anti-death penalty advocates have persuaded United States and foreign manufacturers to stop producing sodium thiopental and an alternative, pentobarbital. So, Oklahoma and other states began using midazolam. Oklahoma increased the dose from 100 milligrams to 500 milligrams after Clayton Lockett was moving and talking after being administered 100 milligrams of midazolam. (An investigation into Lockett’s execution concluded that problems establishing IV access was the “single greatest factor that contributed to the difficulty in administering the execution drugs.”)

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Thirty-seven times during his long legislative career, Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers had introduced legislation to repeal the state’s death penalty. Every time, it had ended in defeat. And for those outside Nebraska, there was little reason to believe the 38th time would be the charm for death-penalty opponents — the newly elected governor supported capital punishment, and the Unicameral Legislature was still considered politically conservative. Inside the state Capitol, though, legislators were well aware that 2015 could finally be the year for a successful repeal.

“I knew there would be a serious push,” says Nebraska Sen. Beau McCoy, who opposed the repeal and, two years ago, had led a filibuster to stop a similar measure from advancing. Near the end of this year’s legislative session, supporters mustered not only enough votes to pass LB 268, but to override the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts as well.
It marked the first time that a U.S. state’s repeal of the death penalty occurred over the veto of a governor.

To date, the Supreme Court’s docket for next term has less than ten cases.  Two of them involve the death penalty.  Combined, they raise at least three issues.   

It is difficult to know what issues the Court will decide in Hurst v. Florida.  In his certiorari petition Timothy Lee Hurst asked the Court to decide at least six issues.  The Court combined and shortened Hurst’s questions presented to address whether Florida’s death penalty sentencing scheme violates the Sixth (right to a jury trial) and Eighth (no cruel and unusual punishment) Amendments.    

CSG Midwest
No death-row inmates will be executed in Ohio this year, as the state transitions to a new mix of lethal drugs to put people to death. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which made the announcement in January, had previously planned to execute six people in 2015.
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An Ohio Supreme Court task force has given legislators 56 recommendations on how to improve administration of the death penalty. The comprehensive list of proposed changes covers nearly all aspects of the death penalty — from tighter controls on how evidence is collected and interrogations are conducted, to more funding for defense services, to new rules for post-...

Are you a state legislator from Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Kansas, North Carolina, and Washington?  If so, keep reading.  Your legislature may need to rewrite its definition of intellectual disability as it applies to the death penalty. 

In Hall v. Florida the Supreme Court held 5-4 that if a capital defendant’s IQ falls within the standard error measurement (SEM) for intellectually disabled, the defendant must be allowed to present additional evidence of intellectual disability.  Hall may require the above 9 states to rewrite their death penalty statutes because they have strict IQ cutoff scores of 70.

Today the Maryland House voted 82-56 to repeal the state's death penalty.  The measure, which is a top priority of Governor Martin O'Malley, was approved by the Senate last week. 

Supporters of the death penalty are expected to petition the bill to a referendum in the 2014 election.  Polls show that the death penalty is currently supported by a small majority of voters in the state. 

There are five men on death row in Maryland, and the legislation does not affect...

California voters sent mixed messages on two ballot measures related to criminal justice, passing a measure that modifies the state's harsh three-strikes law, while rejecting a measure to eliminate the state's seldom-used death penalty.

Next week, Californians will have the opportunity to revisit two major criminal justice issues previously enacted by ballot initiative: the death penalty and the three-strikes sentencing law. 

Proposition 36 will provide residents with an opportunity to modify the state's 18-year-old "three-strikes" law, which allows judges to impose a sentence of 25-years-to-life for offenders who commit a third felony, no matter how minor, if they have two...

Chapter 9 of the 2011 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Book of the States 2011

Chapter 9: Selected State Policies and Programs


  1. An Impossible Choice: Reconciling State Budget Cuts and Disasters that Demand Adequate Management
  2. ...