Clarence Thomas takes an unusual shot at Stephen Breyer in Supreme Court feud over death row case
Official portrait of Justice Clarence Thomas (Wikimedia Commons)

Justice Clarence Thomas took a shot at Justice Stephen Breyer in a ruling on a death penalty case.

The Supreme Court's conservative majority in a 5-4 ruling denied a last-minute request to stay the execution of Christopher Lee Price in Alabama, and Breyer called out his colleagues for their ruling and the manner in which it was decided.

“What is at stake in this case is the right of a condemned inmate not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” Breyer wrote. “To proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all members of the court the opportunity for discussion tomorrow morning is, I believe, unfortunate.”

Thomas, who ruled with the majority to deny the stay request, complained in his order that Breyer's allegations were unfounded.

"There is nothing of substance to these assertions," Thomas wrote. "An accurate recounting of the circumstances leading to the now-delayed execution makes clear that petitioner's execution was set to proceed at a procedurally unremarkable and constitutionally acceptable manner."

Price, who was sentenced to death for his role in the 1991 murder of an Alabama minister, has asked to be executed by nitrogen gas instead of risking a "botched" lethal injection.

Death-row inmates in Alabama were given 30 days last year to elect nitrogen hypoxia, which has never been used in the state, but Price was not one of the 48 inmates who did so and asked for that method later.