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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Death penalty expert: 7 percent of all executions by lethal injections are botched

Lethal injection lab
Death penalty expert Robert Dunham says the mishandling of lethal injections for death-row inmates is more common than may be believed.

"The estimates are about 7 percent of all the executions by lethal injections are botched,” Dunham told Hill.TV co-hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said he blames the statistic on a majority of lethal injections being performed by non-medical personnel, citing a 2014 incident involving an Oklahoma inmate who had been sentenced to death.

Dunham called the execution of Clayton Lockett a "failure" after the execution team couldn't find a vein. Lockett died 43 minutes after the first execution drug was administered, but the prison warden, at the time, called the scene a "bloody mess," according to court documents.

In another case, an Alabama death row inmate’s execution was abandoned after prison officials failed to find a viable vein and his death warrant expired.

The inmate, Doyle Lee Hamm, said the incident left him “botched and bloody,” according to medical reports. Hamm later reached a settlement with the state, which will not pursue a second execution attempt.

But Dunham said the biggest problem lies in the type of of drugs being used in lethal injections.

“As the drugs that states wanted to use have become unavailable, they’ve shifted to drugs like midazolam and midazolam is a sedative," Dunham said. "It’s a very good medicine but it doesn’t keep the person unconscious if they are exposed to some kind of painful stimulant."

Virtually every major pharmaceutical company has adopted a distribution policy that says their medicines cannot be sold for off-label purposes, including for the use of executing death-row inmates.

As a result, states like Nebraska have struggled to get drugs needed for lethal injections and increasingly have been turning to a new cocktail of drugs. 

Nebraska prison officials are set to perform the first execution in the state in more than 20 years using an untried mixture of drugs, including diazepam, fentanyl and cisatracurium.

Source: The Hill, Tess Bonn, August 8, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?