Execution Drug Secrecy: Is It Unconstitutional?

Is execution drug secrecy resulting in unconstitutional executions?

Execution drug secrecy is back in the news, this time in a new segment on Melissa Harris Perry on MSNBC. U.S. manufacturers and European Union suppliers of the drugs traditionally used to carry out executions by lethal injection have either stopped making these drugs or have banned them for export to the U.S. market. As a result, states that continue to carry out executions have been scrambling to find an alternative.

States like Ohio, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and Missouri have turned to non-traditional sources, such as compounding pharmacies, to procure drugs for use in lethal injection. As states desperately search for ways to continue capital punishment, they are turning to legally and morally questionable tactics such as experimental drug combinations, and are refusing to disclose the source or content of the drugs they’re using.

The results? Painful, botched executions, that ACLU attorney Tanya Greene argues are unconstitutional. “We should care because we are nation of laws….and the Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, and the pain and suffering during the execution is a violation of the Constitution.”

In this eye opening segment, Greene disproves the notion the lethal injection is simply euthanasia, like “falling asleep” or “what happens to a pet.” Though lethal injection was originally positioned as a more humane approach to execution, the use of experimental drug cocktails has made recent executions particularly inhumane. Michael Wilson in Oklahoma said “My whole body is burning” during his execution, while Dennis McGuire took nearly 25 minutes to die, and spent that time gasping for air.

Greene touches on another critical death penalty issue during her segment: The ongoing issue of innocent people on death row. “When you are sentencing someone to the ultimate punishment and eliminating them from the human community, we need to be perfect. And we’ve now exonerated 144 individuals from death row! We’re not perfect.”

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Source: National Coalition to End the Death Penalty