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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…

Accused L.A. airport gunman to be spared death penalty in plea deal

TSA officers LAX Airport
The man accused of killing a security screener and wounding three others in a 2013 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport has agreed to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors that would spare him the death penalty, according to court documents filed on Thursday.

Murder of a federal officer, the most serious offense among the 11 criminal counts to which Paul Anthony Ciancia, 26, has agreed to plead guilty, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison without parole.

He has also agreed to plead guilty to attempted murder of a federal officer, violence at an airport, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence causing death and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, according to the plea agreement filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Ciancia, who has been in custody since he was critically wounded in a shootout with police during the Nov. 1, 2013, attack, is expected to enter his guilty plea at an upcoming hearing. The court documents did not give a date.

Federal prosecutors said last year they intended to seek the death penalty for Ciancia if the case went to trial, citing what they said was his substantial planning and premeditation ahead of the crime and its impact on the victims.

However, federal prosecutors said in the agreement they would "not seek the death penalty against defendant."

Authorities say Ciancia walked into Terminal 3 of the nation's second-busiest airport carrying a semi-automatic rifle and opened fire, killing Gerardo Hernandez, 53, an agent for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as he stood at the entrance to a security checkpoint.

Hernandez was the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty since the agency was created following the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijacking attacks on the United States.

Federal authorities have said that Ciancia, from New Jersey, had set out to target TSA employees.

Investigators said in a criminal complaint they found a handwritten letter signed by Ciancia in his bag that addressed TSA officials, writing that he wanted to "instill fear in your traitorous minds."

Source: Reuters, Alex Dobuzinskis, Sept. 1, 2016

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