Wednesday, August 6, 2014

More on executions

Last week, I posted about an execution in Arizona where the condemned prisoner took almost two hours to die. Part of the post, and the comments, questioned whether the drugs used in the execution where the proper ones. Whatever the problems with Arizona's execution methods, Missouri does not seem to have similar issues.

The Associated Press reports that last night convicted murderer and rapist Michael Worthington was executed. The execution took about 10 minutes and Mr. Worthington did not seem to be in any distress during it.

Why was this execution different than the one in Arizona? Possibly because Missouri, like Texas, does not use a combination of drugs but instead uses a single dose of pentobarbital. Pentobarbital is used to euthanize animals and I suppose that any drug we use to put down beloved pets is unlikely to cause any cruel or unusual suffering in humans assuming that the dose is sufficiently large.

Texas uses the same execution method as Missouri and also has not had problems similar to "drug cocktail" executions in Arizona, Ohio, and Oklahoma. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Texas has executed almost 5 times as many people as any other state. Given that Texas has a lot more experience with executions than other states, one wonders why other states don't use the same method that Texas does. Any ideas Mr. Torvik?


  1. Excellent question. My guess (and it is just a guess) is that there is weird state-by-state variation because most ethical medical doctors and pharmacists refuse to participate in the formulation or administration of a lethal injection. So to the extent medical or pharmacological expertise is needed or helpful, states are likely to be scraping the very bottom of the barrel--attracting quacks and sadists. This leaves the medical aspect of executions likely to be sadistic quackery. (Perhaps this is what Judge Kozinski was getting at in his opinion you mentioned the other day - I tried to read it at the time, but your link didn't work.)

    Related reading:

    1. I fixed that link. Your theory seems reasonable to me. Although I lean more on the side of quackery than sadism, I recognize the two are not mutually exclusive.


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