I’m less optimistic now than I was when I heard the arguments that SCOTUS will overturn the ruling in Moore v. Texas. That’s because the justices split 4-4 and therefore denied a stay of execution to an Alabama inmate. Typically, a 5th “courtesy” vote for a stay is granted while the justices decide whether to review the case, but in this case, it was denied. No explanations are provided for denying stays, so we don’t know what, if any, discussions were held.
The inmate was challenging the constitutionality of his death sentence because a jury had sentenced him to life in prison, but the judge overrode the jury’s decision and sentenced him to death. Alabama is the only state that allows this practice.
The other challenge the inmate was bringing was concerning the drug midazolam, which has been associated with several botched executions. As it turns out, when SCOTUS refused to grant the stay, Ronald Bert Smith, Jr was executed, in yet another botched execution.
Ronald Bert Smith, Jr was not a particularly sympathetic character. Alabama did not execute an innocent man in this case. But what purpose did his state imposed murder serve? Why was it necessary to override the decision of the jury? And why do we tolerate such barbaric means for execution?