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A Shortage Of Lethal Drugs For Executions Has States Considering Other Methods

Flickr user A Lee

The history of executions in America seems to be a string of one botched form to another. In a reaction to a botched execution in April and the supply of lethal drugs drying up, states like Tennessee have announced the return of the electric chair.

Dr. Deborah Denno, who teaches law that Fordham University in New York and is considered an expert on the topic of executions, said it was botched executions that led states to consider the electric chair in the early 1900s.

“Well, electrocution was first introduced in this country in 1890 by the state of New York. It was considered then the more humane method of execution because all of the hangings throughout the country were being botched," Denno said.

Denno said it was also botched electrocutions that led death penalty states to switch again, this time to lethal injection.

After 40 years the state of Texas banned the electric chair in 1964 and became the first state to use lethal injection in 1982. But now there is a shortage of the drugs needed to carry out executions and the people making them, so are states considering options from the past. With this history of botched executions leading to other methods, is there a humane method?

“Firing squad is considered to be the most humane form of execution," Denno said. "We’ve had three modern firing squad executions that is past 1976, and there hasn’t been a problem associated with any of them.”

One of those carried out in 2010 at the request of a death row inmate in the state of Utah; both Utah and Wyoming are considering legislation that would allow for death by firing squad.

Here in Texas, state law requires executions be carried out by lethal injection, but that could be changed by legislative approval. 

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.