Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Drug issues lead to death penalty talks

AP, ST LOUIS, Missouri

Days later, the state announced it had switched to a form of pentobarbital made by a compounding pharmacy. Like other states, Missouri has refused to divulge where the drug comes from or who makes it.

Missouri has carried out two executions using pentobarbital — Franklin in November and Allen Nicklasson last month. Neither inmate showed outward signs of suffering, but the secrecy of the process resulted in a lawsuit and a legislative inquiry.

Michael Campbell, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St Louis, said some lawmakers simply do not believe convicted murderers deserve any mercy.

“Many of these politicians are trying to tap into a more populist theme that those who do terrible things deserve to have terrible things happen to them,” Campbell said.

PUBLIC BACKLASH?

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, cautioned that there could be a backlash.

“These ideas would jeopardize the death penalty because, I think, the public reaction would be revulsion, at least from many quarters,” Dieter said.

Some states already provide alternatives to lethal injection. Condemned prisoners may choose the electric chair in eight states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. An inmate named Robert Gleason was the most recent to die by electrocution, in Virginia in January last year.

Arizona, Missouri and Wyoming allow for gas-chamber executions. Missouri no longer has a gas chamber, but Missouri Attorney-General Chris Koster, a Democrat, and Missouri state Senator Kurt Schaefer, a Republican, last year suggested the possibility of rebuilding one. So far, there is no bill to do so.

Delaware, New Hampshire and Washington state still allow inmates to choose hanging. The last hanging in the US was Billy Bailey in Delaware in 1996. Two prisoners in Washington state have chosen to be hanged since the 1990s — Westley Allan Dodd in 1993 and Charles Rodman Campbell in 1994.

Firing squads typically consisting of five sharpshooters with rifles, one of which is loaded with a blank so the shooters do not know for sure who fired the fatal bullet. They have been used mostly for military executions.

Since the end of the Civil War, there have been three civilian firing squad executions in the US.

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