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USA | The Dreadful Failure of Lethal Injection

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Editor’s Note: This column is the product of a research collaboration with five Amherst College students, Mattea Denny, Nicolas Graber-Mitchell, Greene Ko, Rose Mroczka, and Lauren Pelosi. America’s death penalty continues to fall out of favor, a well-known fact. When the year started, eight executions were scheduled for February and March in five different states. But all of them are now on hold, and two of the three executions that were set for April already have been halted. While advocacy for the end of the death penalty has played some role, it is the decomposition of the lethal injection paradigm that has truly driven down execution numbers. We have now seen a decade of chaos and experimentation as death penalty jurisdictions tried to find reliable sources of drugs to carry out executions. States rolled out new drugs, but things did not go smoothly. The number of mishaps associated with lethal injection increased substantially. From 2010-2020, an already problematic method of ex

Arizona ready to execute death row inmates, corrections director says

Arizona is now ready to resume executions after being on pause since 2014, according to an email sent by the state corrections director to the attorney general.

For more than a year, state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, speaking on behalf of victims' families, has encouraged Gov. Doug Ducey to resume executions.

Lawsuits and lack of access to lethal drugs have prevented the state from carrying out death sentences.

More than 100 people are on Arizona's death row, and at least 22 of them have exhausted all of their appeals.

David Shinn, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, alerted Brnovich that the agency has been working to obtain the necessary the drugs and to find someone who could administer them.

"ADCRR now stands ready to commence the execution process," Shinn wrote.

Katie Conner, spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office, told The Republic this is an important step for victims and their families, many of whom have been waiting decades for justice.

“The time is now to carry out court-ordered sentences," she said. "Those who commit the ultimate crimes deserve the ultimate punishment.”

The next step is for the state to issue warrants of execution for those on death row.

Why did Arizona have a break?


Joseph R. Wood was the last inmate to be executed in Arizona in 2014. He was left snorting and gasping for nearly two hours before he died from a controversial drug cocktail.

A federal lawsuit was filed against the state and it led to a series of settlements, establishing what drugs the Department of Corrections could not use, what witnesses should be allowed to see, and how the protocol must be followed.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Arizona inmates do not have the right to know the drug suppliers' identities or the qualifications of the staff involved in the executions.


"The disclosure of suppliers' identities makes it more difficult to obtain drugs as it has given rise to harassment or retaliation by death penalty opponents," Brnovich wrote to Ducey in July. "The Ninth Circuit's opinion now alleviates any such concern."

Finding a supplier and someone to administer the drug has been difficult. Many manufacturers have refused to sell the lethal drugs needed for executions.

In 2015, Arizona tried to ship lethal drugs from out of the country. When the shipment arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the Food and Drug Administration flagged it, and the package was held by customs. The FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration refused to give the drug back to Arizona.

The Department of Justice issued an opinion last year stating the FDA did not have jurisdiction to regulate drugs for executions.

In its recent executions, the federal government used pentobarbital, the same drug Arizona is allowed to use.

"The successful acquisition of pentobarbital demonstrates there is at least one supplier willing to sell the drug to governmental entities for lethal injection," Brnovich wrote in a July letter to Ducey.

The governor could not immediately be reached for comment.

Source: azcentral.com, Staff, March 6, 2021


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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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