Back to the Future with Execution Methods

Back to the Future with Execution Methods, in THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT AND ITS FUTURE IN A NEW AGE OF PUNISHMENT. New York: Cambridge University Press 212-233 (Meghan J. Ryan & William W. Berry III, eds. 2020)

Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3753836

25 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2020

Date Written: December 22, 2020

Abstract

Despite three United States Supreme Court decisions upholding lethal injection protocols, inmates continue to challenge the method's constitutionality, and states cling to scientifically ununiformed procedures to generally ensure the death penalty's survival. Lethal injection, however, is simply the last in a long line of disastrous execution methods. This chapter explores the future of execution methods in light of states' efforts to repeat or borrow from the past, beginning with current changes to lethal injection and the inclusion of prior methods. Those previous methods include electrocution, the firing squad, and the recent adoption of nitrogen hypoxia by several states—all as constitutional substitutes for lethal injection. Older lethal injection drugs are also coming back into play, such as sodium thiopental, despite their current unavailability. This chapter concludes that states cannot go "back to the future" to re-invent or rebrand the past's problematic execution methods. While the future of execution methods is impossible to predict, twenty-one states have now abolished the death penalty, and the death penalty's use has remained near record lows. Quite possibly, current execution methods may follow the same path as hanging, which has been abolished in all fifty states. Likewise, the abolishment of the death penalty as a whole may come faster than states' abilities to change the ways they execute inmates.

Suggested Citation

Denno, Deborah W., Back to the Future with Execution Methods (December 22, 2020). Back to the Future with Execution Methods, in THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT AND ITS FUTURE IN A NEW AGE OF PUNISHMENT. New York: Cambridge University Press 212-233 (Meghan J. Ryan & William W. Berry III, eds. 2020), Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3753836, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3753836

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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