Date: January 27, 2022
Issue: Whether the Supreme Court should vacate the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama’s injunction of the execution of Matthew Reeves.
Outcome: Injunction vacated
Split: 5-4 (Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh in the majority; Kagan for the dissent, joined by Breyer and Sotomayor. Barrett would deny the application but did not join the dissent.)
Facts: Alabama state law allowed death row inmates one month to choose execution by nitrogen gas rather than lethal injection. However, the form to do so required at least an eleventh grade reading level; Reeves had cognitive impairments and a reading level on par with a first grader. He was not provided ADA accommodations for this disability, and therefore Reeves missed the opportunity to apply for execution by nitrogen hypoxia, which he believed to be less painful than lethal injection. The District Court and Court of Appeals both ruled in Reeves’ favor.
Implications: Shortly after the Supreme Court verdict, Reeves was executed.