Capital Punishment Hurdles Update

An NBC News article this morning says, referring to The Apothecary Shoppe of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s agreeing not to provide the state of Missouri with  made-to-order pentobarbital or any other drug for use in Michael Taylor's execution,  “represents a new roadblock to lethal injections — one that has some death penalty advocates saying states must come up with another method a squeamish public can stomach… Missouri insists it will still be able to impose the ultimate punishment on child-killer Michael Taylor next week, but the latest litigation underscores the growing difficulty states face in obtaining chemicals to use on death-row inmates.”

“Until about 2010, most death-penalty states used a three-drug cocktail that was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court: the anesthetic sodium thiopental, the paralyticpancuronium bromide, and heart-stopping potassium chloride to stop the heart, causing death,” NBC recounts. “(But) in 2011, Hospira, the sole U.S. producer of sodium thiopental, stopped making the drug, and the European manufacturer balked at exporting it to the U.S. if it were to be used in executions… Manufacturers of substitute drugs like pentobarbital have also refused to supply it for executions, forcing states to turn to compounders, who mix specialty drugs from their basic components – which defense lawyers argue is illegal, claiming the lack of oversight prevents jailers from guaranteeing an execution won't be agonizing enough to violate the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment…. They have attacked states' attempts to keep the names of the pharmacies secret — Georgia's highest court is set to decide soon whether it's legal.”

In the case mentioned above, compounding pharmacyApothecary Shoppe Monday settled a lawsuit against it by Taylor's attorneys, agreeing not to provide any drugs for Taylor's Feb. 26 execution. (CBS News has more here)

Houston-based victim rights advocate who supports capital punishment Dudley Sharpe was quoted by NBC as saying, "I have been telling folks for years that this cat-and-mouse thing (in trying to obtain lethal solutions for executions) is going to become too exhausting for the states… They’re going to have to not just switch drugs, they’re going to have to switch methods.” He adds that while some lawmakers have already raised the spectre of a return to firing squads or electric chairs,  those methods are going to be seen as too "gruesome" for modern American sensibilities and will never come back.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, prophecised that “despite the problems, states are still figuring out a way to execute inmates…. They're creative " he said, suggesting that prisons may eventually create their own compounding pharmacies to ensure they're always stocked.

"My sense is that as long as the death penalty is constitutional, there will be a way to carry it out. It won't be stopped because we just can't figure out a way to kill people."