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WASHINGTON — At 8:23 p.m. local time on Sept. 25, 2007, Michael Richard was pronounced dead inside the execution chamber at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. The United States hasn't held an execution since.
Just a few days after Richard's death, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear a challenge to the way executions like Richard's are carried out. That case will be heard Monday.
The hearing will weigh whether the nearly universal three-chemical mix used to execute condemned prisoners is constitutional. The court's decision could determine whether a de facto moratorium on the death penalty continues.
Since the court announced it would take the case, it has intervened several times to grant last-minute stays. States across the country have followed suit.
In its brief to the court, lawyers for Baze and Bowling say the three-chemical cocktail and the protocols Kentucky uses to administer the death sentence are cruel and unusual and as such are unconstitutional. They argue "a state...violates the Eighth Amendment when its execution procedures create a significant and unnecessary risk of inflicting severe pain that could be prevented by the adoption of reasonable safeguards."