Thirty-six states and the federal government have relied on the use of lethal injections to carry out executions.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that lethal injection cannot be included under the constitutional amendment barring cruel and unusual punishment, clearing the way for the lifting of state moratoriums on executions that were installed last September.
The court rejected by 7-2 the case made by two death row inmates in the state of Kentucky.
They sued the state in 2004, saying the commonly used combination of three chemical injections violated the US constitution’s ban on cruel punishment.
Executions nationwide have been on hold since September. Virginia immediately said it was lifting its moratorium.
Chief Justice John Roberts said the petitioners had “not carried their burden of showing that the risk of pain from maladministration of a concededly humane lethal injection protocol, and the failure to adopt untried and untested alternatives, constitute cruel and unusual punishment”.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented.