The Death Row Science Experiment, Ctd

Earlier this week, Lauren Galik noted how Missouri and Louisiana, facing shortages of approved lethal injection drugs, are refusing to tell death row inmates what chemicals will be used to execute them or what pharmacies are supplying them:

Lawyers that represent both condemned prisoners [Herbert Smulls and Christopher Sepulvado] argue that states must answer questions about whether or not the execution will be humane and comport with the Constitution. Without information about the drugs, those questions have gone unanswered.

According to Megan McCracken, Eighth Amendment Resource Counsel at U.C. Berkeley School of Law’s Death Penalty Clinic, “If lawyers for the condemned prisoners can’t get the information [about the drugs], then they cannot meet their legal burden in court to show that there’s a substantial risk of harm.”

By keeping this information a closely guarded secret, states are asking condemned inmates to take their word for it that the source is legitimate and the drugs won’t result in cruel and unusual punishment when administered.

Smulls was executed on Wednesday using pentobarbital “manufactured by a compounding pharmacy whose identity has not been revealed.” Waldman scratches his head:

It’s the 21st century. We can build skyscrapers a kilometer high. We can send ships to Mars. We can put a powerful computer in the pockets of billions of people. Are you telling me that with all our technology, all our engineering knowledge, and all our good old-fashioned American ingenuity, we can’t come up with a quick, effective, and painless way to kill a man? …

Beyond these practical considerations is a moral one: the death penalty is a vestige of a more barbarous time, which is why most countries have done away with it, and why we should too. But if we’re going to do it, surely we can devise a method that doesn’t have all the uncertainty that lethal injection has brought.

Recent Dish on lethal injection here, here, and here.