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States using lethal injections need more effective process

Jan. 22, 2014 @ 07:05 AM

Since the 1980s, lethal injection has been the pre­ferred method for executions in many states, largely because it seemed to be more humane than the electric chair. But last week’s execution of Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire raises many questions about whether that is still the case. It took the inmate 26 minutes to die from the untried two-drug combination, making it the longest execution since Ohio resumed the death penalty in 1999. McGuire was given a sedative and a painkiller, and although apparently unconscious, he made loud snorting noises and gasped repeatedly. There has to be a better approach than that. Ohio is one of 32 states with the death penalty, and most use lethal injection, at least as an option. But European companies have cut off supplies of some of the preferred execution drugs because of opposition to capital punishment in Europe, and states have struggled to find effective substitutes.

Adding to the dilemma is the complex legal land­scape for death penalty cases. Changes in the execu­tion process can bring new challenges from those on death row, who cite the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But McGuire’s problematic execution also is expected to spark new challenges.

Many readers likely have little sympathy for McGuire, who was sentenced for raping and killing a pregnant newlywed in 1989. But executions in the United States should be as quick and painless as pos­sible, and the states involved need to quickly find a suitable method.

 

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