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Supreme Court sides with Georgia death row inmate seeking death by firing squad

Justice Barrett was joined in her dissent by Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch

Published: June 23, 2022 8:23pm

Updated: June 23, 2022 9:25pm

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Thursday that a Georgia death row may proceed with his legal efforts to be executed by firing squad rather than lethal injection, the only acceptable method of execution in the state. 

Inmate Michael Nance was sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of a bystander he shot while fleeing a bank robbery. His challenges against his conviction and sentence failed several times before he brought a case asking the state to execute him by firing squad due to his medical issues that would cause "a substantial risk of severe pain," violating the Constitution's cruel and unusual punishment clause.

The Supreme Court did not focus on Nance's crime, but whether he followed the proper legal procedure to challenge his method of execution. 

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh joined Justice Elena Kagan in the majority opinion.

She explained that "a prisoner must identify a readily available alternative method of execution that would significantly reduce the risk of severe pain. In doing so, the prisoner is not confined to proposing a method authorized by the executing State’s law; he may instead ask for a method used in other States."

Justice Amy Coney Barrett was joined in her dissent by fellow conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch. 

"[T]here is no question that Nance’s challenge necessarily implies the invalidity of his lethal injection sentence: He seeks to prevent the State from executing him in the only way it lawfully can," she wrote. 

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