Court Battles

Supreme Court clears way for Alabama execution

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The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for Alabama to execute death row inmate Matthew Reeves using lethal injection.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings that blocked the execution and granted Alabama’s request to lift the injunction.

Reeves was convicted of murder in 1996 for killing a man during a robbery. His lawyers argued that his rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying that he had an intellectual disability and was not given proper assistance in filling out a form that asked his preferred method of execution, a decision between lethal injection or nitrogen hypoxia. Reeves later said he would have picked the nitrogen hypoxia.

A U.S. District Court granted Reeves a stay of execution, ruling that he could not be put to death until the state could use nitrogen hypoxia.

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court sided with the district court, ruling that Reeves was not given a chance to properly choose his execution method.

Supreme Court Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented in the decision to lift the stay of execution.

A dissent written by Kagan and joined by Sotomayor and Breyer, but not Barrett, said the Supreme Court should have let the decision of the lower courts stand. 

“The Court has no warrant to reweigh the evidence offered below. And it has no other basis for reversing the detailed findings the District Court made to support the injunction. Nor is the Court’s action in any way necessary to enable Alabama to carry out its capital sentence,” Kagan wrote in the dissent.

“As the lower courts recognized, the State will soon be ready to execute Reeves by nitrogen hypoxia. A short delay cannot justify dismissing, as the Court does today, the strength of Reeves’s suit — or the careful work of the judges primarily responsible for assessing his case,” Kagan added.

Tags Alabama Americans with Disabilities Act Amy Coney Barrett Elena Kagan execution Lethal injection Matthew Reeves Sonia Sotomayor Stephen Breyer Supreme Court

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