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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…

Texas judge voices doubts on death penalty

Judge Elsa Alcala
Judge Elsa Alcala
A judge on the state’s highest criminal court, which has the last word on Texas death penalty cases, believes it’s time to reassess whether capital punishment should be allowed to continue in the nation’s most prolific state for executions.

Judge Elsa Alcala, a five-year member of the Court of Criminal Appeals, this week filed an opinion saying she has “great concern” over the way Texas implements the death penalty.

Death row inmates, the Republican judge wrote, have raised compelling arguments about falling support for the death penalty, noting that a majority of states now decline to execute inmates either by law or by practice — a change from 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions after a four-year hiatus based in part on support for executing convicted murderers shown by 36 states.

In addition, Alcala wrote, Texas courts should study whether the death penalty is unconstitutional because it is arbitrarily imposed by race, disproportionately affecting minorities, and whether excessive delays in imposing the ultimate sentence results in cruel and unusual punishment because inmates are held in solitary confinement for years, if not decades.

“I think there are, as I said in that opinion, significant problems with the death penalty,” Alcala told the American-Statesman. “There are lots of problems, and I think the public is not aware of the problems.”

“If you ask me how good is Texas at carrying out the death penalty, I am unconvinced,” Alcala said in an interview. “We see cases over and over again where 10, 20 years later you find problems,” including mistaken witness testimony, exonerations based on previously unavailable DNA tests and scientific advancements that call earlier expert testimony into question.


Source: My Statesman, Chuck Lindell, June 17, 2016

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