Public Defender Builds Injection Case

David Barron

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — One of the biggest capital punishment cases to come before the U.S. Supreme Court in a generation was put together largely by a young, fresh-out-of-law-school member of Kentucky's overworked and underpaid corps of public defenders.

David Barron, 29, filed an appeal on behalf of two Kentucky death row inmates, arguing that the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections across the country can cause excruciating pain, and thus amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

After three years of long hours on Barron's part, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the case on Jan. 7.

"I can't believe I've got a case before the Supreme Court and I'm not even 30 years old," Barron said.

This is the first time in more than a century that the high court will address the legality of a method of execution. Thirty-six states use lethal injection, and executions across the U.S. have come to a halt in the meantime.

Barron, an assistant public defender, arrived in Kentucky in 2004, just over a year out of law school, to represent some of the worst of the worst — death row inmates. He was admitted to the Kentucky bar in July of that year, and filed his lethal-injection challenge the following September, employing a strategy he had tested out in other jurisdictions.

Details here from Brett Barrouquere of the Associated Press.