LETHAL INJECTION: Many States Are Searching for New Execution Drugs

Many states are seeking alternative ways to carry out executions by lethal injection. Missouri announced it intends to use the anesthetic propofol, though no other state has used this drug and the drug’s manufacturer has strongly objected to such use. Officials in Texas and Ohio announced they will be changing their execution protocols in the near future because their current execution drug (pentobarbital) is expiring and is no longer available for this use. In June, officials in California announced it would abandon its three-drug execution method and develop a new process. Georgia apparently obtained drugs outside the state, but has passed a law making all information about executions a “state secret.” Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School and an expert on methods of execution, noted the problems states face, “The bottom line is no matter what drugs they come up with, despite every avenue these states have pursued, every drug they have investigated has met a dead end. This affects every single execution in the country. It just stalls everything, stalls the process.”

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, disputed there being a major issue because existing execution drugs are used on animals: “It’s an artificially created problem,” he said. “There is no difficulty in using a sedative such as pentobarbital. It’s done every day in animal shelters throughout the country.”

(R. Lyman, “Death Row Improvises, Lacking Lethal Mix,” New York Times, August 18, 2013). All lethal injections in the country over the past two years have used pentobarbital. See Lethal Injection and Executions.