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States to try new ways of executing prisoners. Their latest idea? Opioids.

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The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation’s opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug’s powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.
As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country’s first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.
States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.
The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this s…

Utah will keep the death penalty after all

Utah Senate
An unexpectedly potent push to abolish Utah’s death penalty came up short this week, and the practice remained on the books as the state’s legislative session wrapped up.

A bill that would have scrapped capital punishment in cherry-red Utah made it through the Utah state Senate earlier this month and, earlier this week, also passed a key committee in the state’s House of Representatives. It was a surprisingly strong showing for such a proposal given that just last year, Utah lawmakers took an unusual step and expanded the state’s death penalty.

But with the legislative session ending Thursday night, legislators in the state House had a limited window to vote on the proposal. Ultimately, the bill was kicked back to the state Senate without a vote after the state senator who sponsored it determined it didn’t have the votes yet and that he needed more time to convince people who were on the fence.

“I can’t say that the bill is totally a victim of the clock, but you know, if we had another week or so, it would be interesting to see what would have happened,” Utah state Sen. Steve Urquhart (R) told the Associated Press.

It was unclear what would have happened if the state House approved the bill, as Gov. Gary. R. Herbert (R) remains a supporter of the death penalty. However, earlier this month a spokesman for Herbert reiterated that support and added that the governor “has concerns over the excessive length of time it often takes from the date of conviction to the actual punishment.”

The support from lawmakers in Utah showed that it is “unmistakable that an increasing number of conservative Republicans in Utah, like those in Nebraska, are realizing that the death penalty is irrevocably broken,” Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said in a statement. He added: “Conservatives are increasingly taking the lead to end the death penalty precisely because of our conservative principles.”

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Source: The Washington Post, Mark Berman, March 11, 2016

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