The Fate of Lethal Injection: Decomposition of the Paradigm and Its Consequences
50 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 18, 2021
This article examines the use of lethal injection from 2010-2020. That period marks the "decomposition" of the standard three drug protocol and the proliferating use of new drugs or drug combinations in American executions. That development is associated with an increase in the number and type of mishaps encountered during lethal injections. This article describes and analyzes those mishaps and the ways death penalty jurisdictions responded, and adapted, to them. It suggests that the recent history of lethal injection echoes the longer history of the death penalty. When states encountered problems with their previous methods of execution, they first attempted to address these problems by tinkering with their existing methods. When tinkering failed, they adopted allegedly more humane execution methods. When they ran into difficulty with the new methods, state actors scrambled to hide the death penalty from public view. New drugs and drug combinations may have allowed the machinery of death to keep running. New procedures may have given the lethal injection process a veneer of legitimacy. But none of these recent changes has resolved its fate or repaired its vexing problems.
Keywords: lethal injection, mishaps, drug cocktail
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation