Lengthy Litigation Stalls Mississippi Death Penalty

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With litigation over Mississippi’s use of execution drugs scheduled to stretch into 2017, the state could go five years without executing a death row inmate. That would be the longest gap between executions in Mississippi in 15 years, reports the Associated Press. Mississippi has executed 21 people, all men, since the death penalty resumed. That includes a 13-year gap between executions in 1989 and 2002. During that time, executions stalled over concerns about adequate legal representation for the condemned. That’s also when Mississippi switched it execution method from the gas chamber to lethal injection.

Multiyear gaps remained even after 2002, but the state picked up the pace, executing 11 people in a 25-month span ending in 2002. Then, just as it became routine, the death penalty sputtered out. Lawyer Jim Craig has been fighting Mississippi’s plan to use a new drug to render prisoners unconscious before injecting additional drugs to paralyze them and stop their hearts. Craig, of the MacArthur Justice Center, says the litigation isn’t aimed at overturning the death penalty in Mississippi, only at seeking a better way of executing people.

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