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With Long History Of Flawed Executions, New Debate Over Lethal Injections

WBUR
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

There’s new debate over the humanity and constitutionality of lethal injections after last night’s botched execution in Oklahoma, in which the inmate died of a heart attack 43 minutes after his lethal injection.

Witnesses say that during that time, the inmate was writhing, kicking, bucking, he appeared at some point to try to get up, despite being strapped down to a gurney, and called out a couple of times.

The reports forced Oklahoma’s governor to delay a second planned execution and order an inquiry.

The botched execution has also sharpened the debate over lethal executions and the death penalty, which have become increasingly difficult for states to carry out.

Many doctors are unwilling to participate in executions on ethical grounds, and drug companies with the most well-tested drugs have been unwilling to supply their drugs for the purposes of executions.

As a result, states have been forced to turn to compounded drugs, but authorities have been unwilling to name the drugs or the compounding pharmacies involved.

Ryan Kiesel of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma objected to the secrecy, saying his state had “disgraced itself,” with its “haste to conduct a science experiment.”

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Deborah Denno, who has published a series of papers on lethal injection.

Denno says lethal injections are constitutional in theory, but highly problematic in practice.

Guest

  • Deborah Denno, professor of law at Fordham University, and leading researcher on lethal injections.
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