As Lethal Injections Turn “Chaotic,” States Ponder Other Ways To Execute


Despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing a controversial drug to be used for lethal injections in Oklahoma, death-penalty states are finding it harder to carry out executions as they struggle to obtain limited supplies of ever-changing combinations of lethal injection drugs, the New York Times reports. Texas and Virginia has improvised a short-term solution by trading drugs for lethal injections. Both Ohio and Nebraska have sought to buy a drug no longer available in the U.S. from overseas, and were told by the federal Food and Drug Administration that importing the drug is illegal. Executions in Mississippi have been postponed for months over a federal lawsuit challenging the state's three-drug protocol. A judge in Montana has blocked the state from carrying out executions, ruling that one of the two drugs it planned to use did not comply with the state law governing lethal injections.

“Over time lethal injection has become only more problematic and chaotic,” said Fordham Law Prof. Deborah Denno. Oklahoma last week halted the execution of Richard Glossip after officials realized two hours before it was to take place that a supplier had sent prison officials the wrong drug. The error led to a court-ordered stay of the three executions scheduled in October and November while officials conduct an investigation. The scramble for drugs has caused some states to embrace or consider more unusual or more antiquated ways of putting inmates to death. Tennessee has authorized prison officials to use the electric chair if lethal-injection drugs were unavailable. Utah has approved firing squads when drugs cannot be obtained. In April, Oklahoma made nitrogen gas its new backup method, and nitrogen has been recommended in Louisiana.

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