Lethal injection shortage prompts consideration of firing squads, gas chambers

Instead of rethinking death penalties, states consider reviving archaic methods in wake of pentobarbital shortage

Published January 28, 2014 4:20PM (EST)


This year began with two executions by the state that were even more troubling than the ordinary lethal injection death. As I reported, with a shortage on the anesthetic pentobarbital that had made up the three-drug lethal cocktail (now banned in Europe for sale for execution purposes), death penalty states have been dangerously experimenting with untested cocktails from unregulated sources. One convicted man in Ohio, according to witnesses, choked and gasped for ten minutes before finally dying from a new, untried lethal injection; another Oklahoma death row inmate said "I feel my whole body burning" after the injection was administered.

The shortage of pentobarbital, instead of forcing the debate towards ending the barbaric use of capital punishment, has prompted a turn archaic and cruel executions. According to the AP, "lawmakers in some death penalty states are considering bringing back relics of a more gruesome past: firing squads, electrocutions and gas chambers."

The AP reported Tuesday:

[A] Wyoming lawmaker this month offered a bill allowing the firing squad. Missouri's attorney general and a state lawmaker have raised the notion of rebuilding the state's gas chamber. And a Virginia lawmaker wants to make electrocution an option if lethal-injection drugs aren't available.

If adopted, those measures could return states to the more harrowing imagery of previous decades, when inmates were hanged, electrocuted or shot to death by marksmen.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Death Penalty Execution Firing Squad Gas Chamber Lethal Cocktail Lethal Injection Pentobarbital