The Fate of Lethal Injection: Decomposition of the Paradigm and Its Consequences

50 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2021

See all articles by Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat

Amherst College

Mattea Denney

Independent

Nicolas Graber-Mitchell

Amherst College

Greene Ko

Independent

Rose Mroczka

Independent

Lauren Pelosi

Independent

Date Written: April 18, 2021

Abstract

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

Sarat, Austin and Denney, Mattea and Graber-Mitchell, Nicolas and Ko, Greene and Mroczka, Rose and Pelosi, Lauren, The Fate of Lethal Injection: Decomposition of the Paradigm and Its Consequences (April 18, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3829078 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3829078

Austin Sarat (Contact Author)

Amherst College ( email )

Political Science Box 2259
Amherst, MA 01002
United States
413-542-2308 (Phone)

Mattea Denney

Independent

Nicolas Graber-Mitchell

Amherst College ( email )

United States

Greene Ko

Independent

Rose Mroczka

Independent

Lauren Pelosi

Independent

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