The Future of Execution Methods

THE FUTURE OF AMERICA'S DEATH PENALTY: AN AGENDA FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT RESEARCH, Charles S. Lanier, William J. Bowers & James R. Acker, eds., pp. 483-497, Carolina Academic Press, 2009

Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1390182

18 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2009 Last revised: 20 Apr 2009

Date Written: April 17, 2009

Abstract

Lethal injection, the most common method of execution in the United States, is at a troubling impasse. Inmates continue to challenge the method on the grounds that it is an inhumane and unconstitutional method of execution, and states continue to cling to scientifically uninformed procedures in an effort to ensure the death penalty’s survival generally. In a landmark 2006 ruling, however, federal district court judge Jeremy Fogel stated that lethal injection could be “fixed.” Nevertheless, this Chapter declines to join the search for possible solutions without a complete understanding of the problems associated with lethal injection. Accordingly, this Chapter makes two recommendations.

First, this Chapter recommends that states provide an adequate amount of time for in-depth studies of the proper implementation of lethal injection. Although lethal injection’s link to the medical profession can make executions appear more humane and palatable, the image of a serene, peaceful death shields states from carefully reviewing how lethal injection is implemented. Indeed, evidence suggests that lethal injection protocols have been adopted and modified speedily and without the support of medical or scientific inquiry.

Second, this Chapter recommends that states make their lethal injection procedures transparent. In addition to evidence suggesting that states routinely fail to adhere to their own vaguely written procedures, states have begun withdrawing information in the face of challenges to their procedures. Indeed, the author’s 2005 study found that many state lethal injection protocols were not available to the public. Such secretiveness reinforces the belief that states lack the ability or willingness to conduct executions in a manner that is consistent with constitutional mandates.

Keywords: Morales v. Hickman, Morales v. Tilton, Eighth Amendment, Cruel and Unusual Punishment, American Medical Association, California Medical Association, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Sodium thiopental, Pancuronium bromide, Potassium chloride, Baze v. Rees, Lethal injection, Heckler v. Chaney

Suggested Citation

Denno, Deborah W., The Future of Execution Methods (April 17, 2009). THE FUTURE OF AMERICA'S DEATH PENALTY: AN AGENDA FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT RESEARCH, Charles S. Lanier, William J. Bowers & James R. Acker, eds., pp. 483-497, Carolina Academic Press, 2009; Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1390182. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1390182

Deborah W. Denno (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

Fordham University School of Law
150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
212-636-6868 (Phone)
212-636-6899 (Fax)

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