Today's Wall Street Journal reports, "Secrecy Over Executions Faces Challenges," by Ashby Jones.
The move toward secrecy comes as states struggle to carry out capital punishment in a way that comports both with the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" and the desire for executions that are less gruesome than older methods, such as the electric chair or death by hanging.
But the trend has triggered a wave of lawsuits by the condemned, who argue they need details about the procedures, some of which rely on new drugs largely untested in lethal injections and have led to drawn-out executions. Without the information, they argue, they are unable to determine whether an execution runs the risk of causing needless pain and possibly violating the Constitution.
"Experts decry 'failed experiment' with new death penalty drug combinations," is the Guardian report by Ed Pilkington and Amanda Holpuch, and Tom Dart.
“There have been two executions using midazolam and hydromorphone, and both have led to problems. That indicates that it's possible that the combination doesn't work. These are failed experiments with this drug combination,” said David Waisel, associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard medical school who has acted as an expert defence witness in many capital cases. “Given the two recent events it seems irresponsible to continue trying this combination.”
Mark Heath, a Columbia University anaesthesiologist in New York, and also a lethal injection expert, pointed out that of the 12 executions in which midazolam has been deployed, “four did not really go as you'd expect or want”. He said: "The common theme is that in all of them the prisoner seems to go to sleep but keeps moving or breathing for long after you'd expect that to happen.” He added that the use of midazolam was “at this point clearly a failed experiment”.
The experts' warnings add to pressure on the death penalty states that are wrestling with the fallout of recent botched or prolonged executions, most recently that of Wood on Wednesday. Eyewitnesses reported that the prisoner gasped for more than an hour, like “a fish on shore gulping for air”. John McCain, the Arizona senator, said the procedure had been “bollocks-upped” and said it was tantamount to torture – a charge all the more potent because McCain was a victim of torture in Vietnam.
Time posts, "America’s Execution Problem," by Josh Sanburn.
The prolonged execution in Arizona was the fourth troubled lethal injection death this year. If our most modern form of capital punishment isn't working, what happens to the death penalty?
"Arizona execution renews debate over methods," is by the Associated Press, via the Washington Post.
A third execution by lethal injection has gone awry in six months, renewing debate over whether there is a foolproof way for the government to humanely kill condemned criminals, and whether it’s even worth looking for one.
Earlier coverage of Arizona's botched execution begins at the link.