A Georgia inmate wants to die by firing squad, the Supreme Court just made it more likely

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — The U.S. Supreme Court is siding with a Georgia inmate who wants to die by firing squad.

Michael Wade Nance shot and killed 43-year-old Gagor Balogh in 2002 in Gwinnett County. Nance was trying to get away after robbing Tucker Federal Savings and Loan in Lilburn.

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Nance is currently on death row. He sued Georgia’s prison system claiming lethal injection could cause him excruciating pain. He insists his veins are “severely compromised and unsuitable for sustained intravenous access.” Lethal injection is currently the only option for death row inmates in Georgia.

“Execution by firing squad is both swift and virtually painless,” reads the federal lawsuit.

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“This case is about whether a prisoner can challenge a method of execution as unconstitutionally cruel even when it is the only method that the State has adopted. If the answer is no, the courthouse doors will be closed to many prisoners who simply seek to have their death sentences carried out in a humane and lawful manner. In short, Mr. Nance’s case is about access to a humane execution, not a challenge to the death penalty itself,” said Nance’s attorney, Matthew Hellman, in a statement at the time of the arguments before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Nance on Thursday.

“A death row inmate may attempt to show that a State’s planned method of execution, either on its face or as applied to him, violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual” punishment,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan in the majority opinion.

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The ruling does not mean Nance will be executed by firing squad. Nance can now challenge the state’s method of execution through a civil rights lawsuit.

The court returned the case to the Atlanta based Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit for proceedings that line up with the Supreme Court’s new ruling.

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