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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Arizona court hearing to focus on lethal injection drug

A judge presiding over a lawsuit that protests the way Arizona carries out executions is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday over a sedative that was recently abandoned as one of the state's lethal injection drugs.

Lawyers for the state are seeking to dismiss the lawsuit's claim that the sedative midazolam can't ensure that condemned inmates won't feel the pain that's caused by another drug in a 3-drug execution protocol.

The state announced nearly four months ago that it was eliminating its use of midazolam after its supply expired and another supplier couldn't be found because of pressure from opponents of the death penalty. Attorneys for the state say the legal claim is moot because the drug won't be used in the future executions.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake scheduled the hearing after learning that Ohio now has a supply of midazolam and plans to resume executions there in January.

Executions in Arizona will remain on hold until the lawsuit is resolved. They were put on hold after the July 2014 death of convicted killer Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was given 15 dozes of midazolam and a painkiller and who took nearly 2 hours to die. His attorney said the execution was botched.

Several of the lawsuit's claims have been dismissed, but lawyers for the condemned inmates want to press forward with allegations that the state has abused its discretion in the methods and amounts of the drugs used in past executions.

Similar challenges to the death penalty are playing out in other parts of the country that seek more transparency about where states get their execution drugs.

States are struggling to obtain execution drugs because European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products for lethal injections.

Source: Associated Press, October 2016

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