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Atlantic Monthly

Capital Gains

Before this morning’s arguments on whether Louisiana can execute Patrick Kennedy’ the Chief Justice read an opinion that must have made the condemned man’s lawyers’ hearts sink. In what might give a signal, however faint, of the Court’s disposition toward capital punishment, John Roberts delivered a judgment that roundly rejected the claim by two Kentucky death-row inmates that lethal injection would be a cruel way to kill them, and therefore prohibited under the Eighth amendment to the Constitution. A healthy majority of 7-2 sided against the inmates. And on a Court that thinks pumping a man full of toxic chemicals is not likely to cause a “‘substantial’ or ‘objectively intolerable’ risk of serious harm,” Kennedy could not expect a great deal of compassion.