Gorsuch Casts First Tie-Breaking Vote, Allowing Arkansas Executions to Proceed

Neil Gorsuch was just sworn in to his seat as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he is already making a huge impact on important cases. We recently reported that he came in guns blazing on the bench in several high profile cases, including religious freedom and gun rights.

Last night, Gorsuch took part in a Supreme Court ruling involving executions in the State of Arkansas. According to Bloomberg, the issue involved Arkansas prosecutors who sought an expedited execution for a batch of 8 convicts on death row.

The lethal injection drugs were set to expire at the end of this month, and the State wanted to ensure their proper usage. The inmates contested that the executions should not proceed. But in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court gave Arkansas the go ahead.

In a series of orders Thursday night, the high court cleared the state to execute Ledell Lee, one of eight convicted murderers that Arkansas has been trying to put to death before one of its lethal-injection drugs expires at the end of the month. Arkansas executed Lee minutes after the court rejected the last of his requests.

Gorsuch joined his four fellow Republican appointees — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito — in the majority. They didn’t explain their reasons.

The court’s four liberal justices each voted to grant at least one of the requests to halt the executions. Justice Stephen Breyer said the state didn’t have an adequate reason to rush.

The inmates claimed that one of the ingredients in the lethal injection drugs could cause unnecessary pain in the execution, hence a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The inmates said the state’s drug protocol, which includes the controversial sedative midazolam, puts them at risk of an unnecessarily painful death. They said the odds were increased by Governor Asa Hutchinson’s original plan to execute all eight of them over the course of 11 days.

Ledell Lee was executed and pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. It was the first execution in Arkansas since 2005. He was convicted for the strangulation of Debra Reese in 1993.

As Zero Hedge notes, these 8 convicts on death row will be executed in the span of just 11 days, the shortest time span for that many death row inmates since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.