OCTOBER TERM, 2007
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
BAZE ET AL. v. REES, COMMISSIONER, KENTUCKY
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF KENTUCKY
No. 07–5439. Argued January 7, 2008—Decided April 16, 2008
Lethal injection is used for capital punishment by the Federal Govern-
ment and 36 States, at least 30 of which (including Kentucky) use the
same combination of three drugs: The first, sodium thiopental, in-
duces unconsciousness when given in the specified amounts and
thereby ensures that the prisoner does not experience any pain asso-
ciated with the paralysis and cardiac arrest caused by the second and
third drugs, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Among
other things, Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol reserves to qualified
personnel having at least one year’s professional experience the re-
sponsibility for inserting the intravenous (IV) catheters into the pris-
oner, leaving it to others to mix the drugs and load them into sy-
ringes; specifies that the warden and deputy warden will remain in
the execution chamber to observe the prisoner and watch for any IV
problems while the execution team administers the drugs from an-
other room; and mandates that if, as determined by the warden and
deputy, the prisoner is not unconscious within 60 seconds after the
sodium thiopental’s delivery, a new dose will be given at a secondary
injection site before the second and third drugs are administered.
Petitioners, convicted murderers sentenced to death in Kentucky
state court, filed suit asserting that the Commo