There Must Be a Means: The Backward Jurisprudence of Baze v. Rees

10 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2011 Last revised: 15 Jul 2013

Nadia N. Sawicki

Loyola-Chicago School of Law, Beazley Institute for Health Law & Policy

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

The Supreme Court’s plurality opinion in Baze v. Rees begins with a seemingly simple assertion of constitutional law. “We begin with the principle, settled by Gregg, that capital punishment is constitutional.” It continues, “It necessarily follows that there must be a means of carrying it out.” This second pronouncement provides the foundation for the Supreme Court’s holding in Baze that Kentucky’s refusal to modify its lethal injection procedure does not violate the Eighth Amendment. However, in taking the position that the constitutionality of an existing method of capital punishment is dependent on the availability of alternative execution procedures, the Supreme Court has turned Eighth Amendment jurisprudence on its head, establishing a dangerous loophole that could imperil our most important constitutional protections. This essay highlights the error in the Court’s reasoning in Baze, and describes the potential consequences of applying this reasoning to other areas of constitutional law.

[SSRN posted version is a pre-publication draft]

Keywords: Capital Punishment, Cruel and Unusual, Lethal Injection

Suggested Citation

Sawicki, Nadia N., There Must Be a Means: The Backward Jurisprudence of Baze v. Rees (2009). 12 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 1407 (2010) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1755100

Nadia N. Sawicki (Contact Author)

Loyola-Chicago School of Law, Beazley Institute for Health Law & Policy ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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