No Drugs, No Executions: The End of the Death Penalty

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Deborah Denno comments to the National Journal on the execution of William Happ and  an American death-penalty system in crisis: States are running out of the drugs they rely on to carry out death sentences as alternatives for how to secure them quickly diminish. And how no one wants to innovate in the execution industry.

“Every time a state changes their method of execution, they lose credibility about a procedure that should be as humane as we can make it. Everything that states are doing now goes against that very grain,” said Deborah Denno, a capital-punishment expert who opposes the death penalty. “They choose drugs because they are available, not because they know anything about those drugs.”

Advocates like Denno see this rising tension as an unexpected boon for their cause, something that is succeeding where more-conventional methods—Eighth Amendment lawsuits, innocence projects, and demonstrations of racial and socioeconomic bias—have failed.

“The drug shortage and what caused it and what perpetuates it and what results from it has nothing to do with the execution process in this country. Nonetheless, it may be the factor that ends up finally abolishing the death penalty,” she said. “And it’s an irony because it’s nothing any death-penalty litigator could have hoped for.”

The entire National Journal story ran on October 28, 2013.

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