"The Many Lives of a Death Drug," is the title of Maurice Chammah latest article in Texas Monthly. Here's the beginning of this must-read:
On April 29 a media frenzy erupted over a botched execution in Oklahoma. The story is now familiar: a doctor administered a three-drug cocktail to convicted murderer Clayton Lockett. He lost consciousness for a few minutes, according to eyewitnesses, then regained it, writhed in apparent pain, and cried out, “Oh, man.” Officials said it was the administration of the drug—not the drug itself—that caused the complication, but nonetheless, the incident turned international attention to the logistics of carrying out the death penalty.
The controversy spilled south to Texas, which has the country’s most active death chamber, where the next execution, of a man named Robert James Campbell, was scheduled for May 13. A federal court stayed Campbell’s execution over questions about his mental faculties, but news outlets around the world had already tied his story to the debate about lethal injection drugs.
The next Texas execution, of a man named Manuel Vasquez, is scheduled for August. He will be given a fatal dose of a single drug, pentobarbital, in a protocol the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been using since 2012. Death penalty opponents will be looking for evidence that the drug causes Vasquez to feel pain, a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, while Texas prison officials, it is safe to presume, will be hoping for a smooth procedure so as to not invite the attention of journalists and activists.
Pentobarbital will take the stage again, and one question above all others will be asked of the drug: Is it a painless way to die?