Jewish lawyers push for humane executions


A group of Jewish lawyers is pressing the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that the death penalty is humane.

The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists hopes that the humane principles of Jewish law will help sway the high court as it considers a case regarding the humanity of killing prisoners by lethal injection.

The Washington-based group on Tuesday filed an amicus brief with the court in the case of Ralph Baze and Thomas C. Bowling v. Jonathan D. Rees, which questions whether death by lethal injection, as currently administered in Kentucky, is in violation of the Eighth Amendment right to protection from “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Attorney Nathan Lewin, a primary drafter of the brief, noted that in the case of Roper v. Simmons, which bars the execution of juveniles, the Supreme Court majority enumerated history, tradition and precedent as components of its analysis.

The lawyers’ group contends that “any method of administering capital punishment that fails the contemporary standards of rapid and painless death is unacceptable.”

In its brief, the group cites the directive in Leviticus to “love your neighbor as yourself” as a prohibition of unethical methods of capital punishment. The case argues whether the current “triple cocktail” of an anesthetic, a drug to paralyze muscles and another to stop the heart is painful and antiquated.

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