Supreme Court Rejects Inmate’s Plea for Firing Squad

WASHINGTON — Over the dissents of its three liberal members, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from a death row inmate in Missouri who said the way the state planned to execute him would cause him excruciating pain. The inmate, Ernest Johnson, had asked to instead be put to death by a firing squad.

As is the court’s custom, it gave no reasons for refusing to hear the case. Mr. Johnson was convicted of murdering three people during a 1994 robbery of a gas station. He later learned he had a brain tumor and underwent surgery to address it, leaving him with a seizure disorder.

Mr. Johnson sued to challenge Missouri’s execution protocol, which uses a lethal injection of pentobarbital, saying it would very likely cause him to suffer intense and painful seizures. As required by Supreme Court precedent, he proposed alternative methods of execution, starting with nitrogen gas, a method contemplated by state law but never used.

In a separate case from Missouri in 2019, Bucklew v. Precythe, the Supreme Court ruled that nitrogen gas was not a feasible alternative because it was, as Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote for the majority, “an entirely new method — one that had never before been used to carry out an execution and had no track record of successful use.”

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