By Kate Randall:
Following botched Florida lethal injection
Executions on hold in two US states
18 December 2006
On Friday, executions by lethal injection were suspended in Florida following a botched execution, and a federal judge in California ruled that the state must overhaul its death penalty methods, in effect halting executions there.
These developments have focused increased scrutiny on the gruesome lethal injection procedure, which is the method of choice in 37 US states.
In the Florida case, it took 34 minutes and a rare second injection of deadly chemicals for prison authorities to execute Angel Nieves Diaz on December 13.
Death usually occurs within 15 minutes, and the individual is unconscious and motionless within 3 to 5 minutes.
In Nieves Diaz’s case, witnesses reported seeing him moving as long as 24 minutes after the initial injection, including grimacing, blinking, licking his lips, blowing and attempting to mouth words.
As lethal injection is currently practiced, the prisoner is given a deadly cocktail of three poisons: one to deaden pain, the second to induce paralysis and the third to stop the heart.
A study published last year in the British medical journal the Lancet, however, concluded that the first drug, sodium pentothal, can wear off before the inmate loses consciousness, subjecting the condemned individual to excruciating pain before the third drug, potassium chloride, causes a heart attack.
The medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Nieves Diaz following his execution, Dr. William F. Hamilton, said that it appeared that the lethal-injection needles punctured through both of his veins, sending the poisons into the small tissues of the arm, dispersing them.
“It really sounds like he was tortured to death,” commented Jonathan Groner, associate professor of surgery at the Ohio State Medical School and a death-penalty opponent, to the Associated Press.
“My impression is that it would cause an extreme amount of pain.”
Because medical professionals overwhelmingly refuse to participate in the lethal injection procedure on ethical grounds, the intravenous needles are for the most part put in place by prison personnel.
While in a hospital setting the average success rate in inserting an IV is about 1 in 6, when the difficult procedure is attempted by prison staffers trained solely for execution, the results can be disastrous, as proved in Nieves Diaz’s case.
See also here.
Exclusion of Jews and Blacks from California death penalty juries: here.
US states with most death penalties had most lynchings in the past: here.
Lethal injection drug blocked by judge. Compounding pharmacy called the Apothecary Shoppe told not to supply Missouri government with unofficial pentobarbital mix: here.