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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…

Dylann Roof challenges federal death penalty law as unconstitutional

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Lawyers for Dylann Roof, the accused Charleston church shooter, filed a motion to challenge the constitutionality of the federal death penalty Monday.

Roof's lawyers argue that "the federal death penalty constitutes a legally prohibited, arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by both the Fifth and Eighth Amendments."

They continue to argue that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional in addition to the federal law:

The Federal Death Penalty Act "may have been designed with as much care as possible under the circumstances, the capital sentencing process that the statute provides is constitutionally inadequate in practice. The results of jurors' good-faith grappling with the law - arbitrary, biased, and erroneous death verdicts - are intolerable as a matter of due process and proportional punishment."

Roof faces 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners during a Bible study. 

His penalty trial is set to begin in November.

The challenge is being brought because the federal government is seeking the death penalty in the case after rejecting Roof's offer to plead guilty and accept multiple sentences of life in prison without the opportunity for parole, Buzzfeed reports.

Sources: The Dallas Morning News, Hannah Wise; The Associated Press, August 1, 2016

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