Here’s the question: are controversies surrounding the drug or drugs used in lethal injection executions enough to halt capital punishment altogether? Even though there are other, legal methods of execution on the books?
Consider the following three examples of executions not going forward because of drug issues:
1. Missouri Execution Halted Over Pentobarbital Issue In Man With Brain Tumor
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court ordered the execution of Ernest Lee Johnson by the State of Missouri be stayed while legal issues are resolved in his case. The stay was none too soon: Johnson was scheduled to die yesterday.
The first issue: if the lethal injection method will be cruel and unusual in his case because of the pentobarbital used by Missouri (source unknown) might interact with his brain tumor and cause painful seizures. The second issue: whether or not this man should be executed because he suffers from mental disabilities. (His IQ has been tested at 63.)
2. Ohio Delays Executions Until 2017
Ohio can’t find drugs to use in its lethal injection executions. So all the inmates on Ohio’s Death Row have received a stay of sorts: now, Ohio’s execution schedule begins in January 2017 and continues through August 2019. There are 25 executions scheduled during this time period.
From its Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (go here for full release including revised schedule with individual dates and names):
Today the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) announced revised execution dates for twelve inmates. DRC continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions, but over the past few years it has become exceedingly difficult to secure those drugs because of severe supply and distribution restrictions. The new dates are designed to provide DRC additional time necessary to secure the required execution drugs.
3. Oklahoma Delays Executions At Request of Attorney General
We all know that Oklahoma has had some serious problems with the lethal injection method of execution. After all, Glossip v. Gross comes out of Oklahoma — where Richard Glossip, Benjamin Cole, and John Grant, challenged the use of midazolam in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail, arguing that three executions showed that the drug failed to stop pain. SCOTUS ruled against them back in June.
It was also Oklahoma where Richard Glossip just had his execution stayed at the last minute by the Governor.
Why? Apparently, they were about to use the wrong drug in the execution, potassium acetate. The correct and approved drug for lethal injection in Oklahoma is potassium chloride, NOT potassium acetate.
Now, Oklahoma executioners face a revised execution schedule that delays any executions. The Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma has asked that all executions be stayed there until they can get this drug problem resolved.