‘This isn’t an attempt to time-warp back into the 1850s or the wild, wild west or anything like that’
Hangings, firing squads and gas chambers are being considered as means of execution by some states because of the unavailability of lethal injection drugs.
The drugs are in short supply and death penalty states are looking to make sure they can still execute people effectively, The Associated Press reports.
Controversy is widespread because of scenes like the January execution of Oklahoma inmate Michael Wilson. The issue has prompted legal actions and some drug companies’ refusals to sell the lethal drugs to prisons.
“I feel my whole body burning,” were Wilson’s final words. Capital punishment opponents claim those words clearly indicate the process is not the clinical, painless operation portrayed by some state officials. Some elected officials say recent legal challenges and shortage of drugs make lethal injection too vulnerable to complications.
“This isn’t an attempt to time-warp back into the 1850s or the wild, wild west or anything like that,” commented Missouri State Representative Rick Brattin. He said he just sees a potential future problem and wants to be prepared.
Virtually all death penalty states switched to lethal drugs because of the negative perception of hanging, electrocution, gas and firing squads. However, despite the desire to make it more palatable, the horrors of execution seem inescapable. Another example: the recent Ohio execution of Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to complete, with him repeatedly gasping for air.
The European Union threatened to impose export limits on propofol if it is to be used in executions.
The EU is anti-death penalty, and sentiment against export of drugs used in lethal injection runs high, the AP reported. The drug propofol was suspect in the death of pop star Michael Jackson.
Many legislators are tapping into a popular feeling that “those who do terrible things deserve terrible things to happen to them,” Michael Campbell, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, told The Associated Press. However, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., says, “These ideas would jeopardize the death penalty, because, I think, the public reaction would be revulsion.”
Electrocution is an alternative to lethal injection for condemned prisoners in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Wyoming lawmakers recently offered a bill allowing execution by firing squad. Delaware, New Hampshire and Washington state still allow inmates to choose hanging. Arizona, Missouri and Wyoming also allow gas-chamber executions.
Since 1976, the Marin Independent Journal said there have been three firing squad executions in the U.S., all of them in Utah.
Some states are also beginning to use other drugs and will not disclose where they come from.