Execution Methods in a Nutshell
HANDBOOK ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. New York: Routledge 427-445 (Robert M. Bohm & Gavin Lee, eds. 2017)
21 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2019
Date Written: 2017
In the wake of numerous cruel and troubling execution methods, lethal injection seemed to be the answer to this country’s centuries-long search for a medically humane means of putting an inmate to death. However, lethal injection is currently being subjected to an unprecedented degree of scrutiny due to various factors, including botched executions, problematic protocols, and drug shortages and restrictions. An historical overview puts these circumstances in context. In 1977, a year after Gregg v. Georgia, Oklahoma became the first state to adopt lethal injection, despite the fact that the procedure had never been medically or scientifically studied on human beings. Even without proper medical justification, 38 more states adopted lethal injection between 1977 and 2009. As more states began utilizing lethal injection, the method faced more challenges, leading to a decrease in the number of executions being performed. The Supreme Court attempted to address these challenges in Baze v. Rees (2008), in which the Court upheld the constitutionality of Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol. Contrary to some commentators’ predictions, executions continued their downward trend post-Baze. In 2015, the Supreme Court faced another lethal injection challenge in Glossip v. Gross, which involved Oklahoma’s use of midazolam as a lethal injection drug. The Court held 5–4 that three death row inmates failed to establish that midazolam created "a substantial risk of severe pain" when used as the first of three drugs in state's lethal injection procedure. This chapter discusses the Glossip Court’s unwillingness to address key aspects of death penalty history and the blame the Court places on unidentified “anti-death-penalty advocates” for the factors driving lethal injection’s troubles – troubles which threaten the future of the death penalty.
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