SCOTUS Justice Neil Gorsuch has cast his first tie-breaking vote, allowing Arkansas to proceed with executions of death row inmates.
Justice Neil Gorsuch took his first major action on the U.S. Supreme Court by casting the deciding vote to let Arkansas begin executing a group of death-row inmates.
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. Associated Press later reported the execution had been carried out.
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.
Five justices would have blocked the executions by granting one of the inmate’s requests to halt them. Justice Stephen Breyer said the state didn’t have an adequate reason to rush.
“Apparently the reason the state decided to proceed with these eight executions is that the ‘use by’ date of the state’s execution drug is about to expire," Breyer wrote. "That factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random."
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan also voted to block the executions.
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.
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