The United States finally stated that the controversial drug midazolam would not be banned for use in the death penalty. A Supreme Court decision found that the sedative had not been proven more cruel and unusual than the alternatives.
The drug, midazolam, is the latest to fall under scrutiny as more and more of the drugs used in the death penalty become unavailable. Manufacturers pull off from sale to prisons as they don't want their products associated with execution. As a result, corrections facilities have been facing shortages of lethal injection drugs for years.
In a 5-to-4 vote, the court ruled that using midazolam does not violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." In executions, the drug has been used to induce unconsciousness before other drugs are administered to stop an inmate's breathing and stop the heart.
Traditionally, lethal injections have used a three-drug cocktail: sodium thiopental for sedation, pancuronium bromide to paralyze the muscles and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
In 2011, however, Hospira Pharmaceuticals, the only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, stopped making the drug because of its use in executions. The same year, the European Union banned the export of sodium thiopental as well as other barbiturate drugs used in executions, ruling that companies had to ensure any exports would not be used for lethal injections.