That's the title of Mike Ward's excellent recap of execution protocols in Texas and other death penalty states in today's Austin American-Statesman. It features a map and several state-by-state lists. Here's the beginning of this must-read:
On July 9, when Texas switched from three drugs to just one to execute its most heinous criminals, Rick Thaler, the state’s No. 3 corrections official, signed off on the change without fanfare after consulting with prison officials in other states.
No public hearings. No legislative action. No public vote by the prison system’s nine-member governing board, which routinely votes on tweaks to prison policies, such as hazardous-duty pay bumps for individual employees and donations of vegetable and Bibles.
Under a state law enacted years ago, Thaler — a former guard and warden with no medical training — alone decided the change on how Texas’ ultimate punishment is administered. His signature on the revised 10-page execution policy was all it took to upend almost three decades of precedent using three drugs in executions.
Lethal injection faces increasing scrutiny nationwide with states scrambling to keep their death chambers operating as their supplies of drugs run short, and because of that, critics of the death penalty say, the execution process is much more haphazard than it once was.
“It appears to be like the Keystone Kops running around changing the procedures to fit whatever drugs they can get at that time, just so they can keep executions going,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. “Clearly, this is not any way to be doing this.”
Added Deborah Denno, a law professor and death penalty expert at New York’s Fordham University: “The process has always been sloppy, but it’s getting much riskier from a constitutional standpoint, in my view. There used to be a pretense that the three-drug method was humane.
“Now, there is no such pretense. States are switching to whatever drug they can get.”
For their part, Texas prison officials say they are simply doing what they must to carry out the law, and they echo the response of colleagues across the country: Courts have approved all the changes so far.
Related posts are in the lethal injection index.