The decision by Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday to postpone all seven scheduled 2015 executions in the state is part of growing evidence suggesting that courts – and American society – are coming to a fresh showdown over the humanity of how states administer the ultimate sanction.

Governor Kasich’s decision comes as Ohio and other death penalty states struggle to finesse a lethal drug cocktail that would consistently end an inmate’s life humanely. The postponement was announced three weeks after the state said it would no longer use a controversial drug, midazolam, which was employed in a series of executions that went awry last year.

What’s more, the decision to delay comes one week after the US Supreme Court agreed to weigh whether a lethal injection cocktail using midazolam violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. And it comes almost exactly a year after Ohio executed Dennis McGuire, who appeared to struggle during a 26-minute execution that was expected to take no more than 10 minutes.

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