Judge Neil Gorsuch was notably cagey during his vetting to become the new Justice of the Supreme Court, and so, even as he was sworn in, there were those who had questions that remained unanswered.
The country has been waiting to see what kind of justice Gorsuch will be, and now, after his first decision in his new post, we have a pretty good idea.
The case of McGehee v. Hutchinson involved eight men on death row in Arkansas who the state planned to execute rapidly in April to meet the "use by" date of a lethal injection drug. Lawyers for the eight inmates argued that the state's effort to fast-track their deaths was cruel and unusual punishment and deprived the men of the time needed to access legal counsel and the courts in their ever-evolving cases.
The Supreme Court was divided on the case, but Gorsuch cast the tie-breaking vote on Thursday. While four of the inmates cases were indefinitely delayed to allow for further DNA testing and a potential future Supreme Court case, Gorsuch was instrumental in the decision to send one inmate to immediate death. Ledell Lee, who had been convicted of the 1993 murder of Debra Reese, was put to death Thursday night despite his continuous pleas of innocence and request for DNA testing. It had been over a decade since the last Arkansas execution.
The morality of taking a human life despite a criminal's own committed atrocities is an ongoing debate, but that is not the only problematic thing about this Supreme Court decision.
According to Ian Millhiser, justice editor at ThinkProgress, it is the general practice of the Supreme Court to stay an execution in order to hear an inmate's case while they are still alive, which seems like common sense.
In the case of McGehee v. Hutchinson, the justices could have granted a stay of execution for the eight inmates so that they could be fully briefed on each man's case before scheduling a future hearing. However, the majority of them, Gorsuch included, chose to sentence a man to death.
It's a decision that appears cruel and even a little thoughtless, much like something President Donald Trump would approve of.
Thumb Image Credit: REUTERS/Carlos