Ward (2006) Drug Cocktail Rooted in Texas

Ward (2006) Drug Cocktail Rooted in Texas - Austin...

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Austin American-Statesman (Texas) May 28, 2006 Sunday Final Edition Death penalty's drug cocktail rooted in Texas BYLINE: Mike Ward AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A01 LENGTH: 2068 words When states began reviving the death penalty 30 years ago, hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber and firing squads had passed out of favor, perceived as too brutal for a civilized nation. Lethal injection was embraced as the humane method of administering the ultimate punishment. Deciding exactly which mix of chemicals would most quickly and painlessly put someone to death would seem a question easily answered by science. But that's not how it was done. Instead, the procedure of death by needle was the creation of an Oklahoma medical examiner and was put into practice by Texas prison officials. Now, that chain of events, reminiscent of the stereotypical good ol' boy prison environment in the classic 1967 movie "Cool Hand Luke," could draw Texas into the cross hairs of a growing national legal battle over whether lethal injections are as painless as once thought. And whether they are unconstitutional. Both the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal court in California are reviewing death penalty challenges that rest on the argument that lethal injection, as it is being practiced, is constitutionally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment. "All roads lead to Texas on this one because the other states adopted the procedure on how to administer lethal injection based on what Texas came up with," said Sarah Tofte, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group opposed to the death penalty that last month released a report highlighting the growing legal questions over lethal injection. "It's hard to believe that this procedure was developed without any real input from medical professionals, but it was." Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who is a recognized expert on lethal injection, agreed. "If we're going to execute people, we should do it as humanely as possible, but we don't know that the current procedure does that," she said, citing pending court cases in California and Florida. "As incredible as it may seem, the current procedure was developed by some officials just winging it, without any real medical basis for their decisions. So we really don't know how humane the process is." The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case from Florida about whether an inmate who has exhausted all other appeals can return to court to challenge the cruelty of a specific method of lethal injection.
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This note was uploaded on 07/20/2010 for the course SOC 308 taught by Professor Kurtz during the Summer '07 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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Ward (2006) Drug Cocktail Rooted in Texas - Austin...

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