Sunday, January 19, 2014

Drug shortage: US states consider execution by firing squad

One day after a controversial lethal injection case in Ohio when a new lethal injection was used for the execution of a convicted killer Dennis McGuire, another set of state lawmakers have proposed legislation that would allow execution by firing squad.

Lawmakers for US states where authorities have been unable to obtain lethal injection drugs say they are considering executions by firing squad.

States have turned to pharmacies that customize drugs and adopted untested new mixes after supplies of traditional execution drugs were cut off by manufacturers opposed to their use for the procedure.
Missouri's Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi, signed his name as co-sponsor of a bill that would allow execution by firing squad. He was thinking of the victims, Fitzwater said.

"People look at inmates who will be executed as victims,” Fitzwater said. “But the real victims have no voice because they are gone."

A Wyoming lawmaker also supports the execution by firing squad. Sen. Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan) said: "One of the reasons I chose firing squad as opposed to any other form of execution is because frankly it's one of the cheapest for the state."

"The expense of building a gas chamber I think would be prohibitive when you consider how many people would be executed by it, and even the cost of gallows," he explained.

The debate over lethal injections was reignited on Thursday when a convicted Ohio killer Dennis McGuire gasped and convulsed during his execution. The state used a two-drug method for the first time in the country. US officials used intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, to put McGuire to death. Human rights activists accuse state authorities of testing poisons on people.

According to Kara Gotsch, Director of National Programs at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, "Pentobarbital, which was the most commonly used drug in the US, not just in Ohio but across the country, has dried out, supplies of this drug are not made available because the European manufacturer of Pentobarbital has now been banned in the US for executions."

"So, as a results, not just Ohio but states across the country are looking at alternative drugs to use for lethal injection and executions through lethal injection," Gotsch told Radio VoR.

An execution in Ohio has drawn criticism after reports that it took 25 minutes for the lethal injection of a new mixture of chemicals to work. McGuire gasped for air and choked for more than 10 minutes, according to the Columbus Dispatch newspaper. He also struggled and made guttural noises before succumbing 24 minutes after the chemicals began to flow.

Allen Bohnert, one of McGuire's lawyers, called the execution a "failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio."

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