Lethal injection executions in the U.S. continuing to decline due to court disputes over controversial drug used in death sentences
Dec 21, 2015 06:26 AM EST
The number of executions in the U.S. via lethal injection this year has been recorded as the lowest since 1991. This is partly due to the legal dispute about a controversial drug that was used in alleged failed executions.
According to the latest report released by the non-profit organization Death Penalty Information Center or DPIC, although there are 49 people sentenced to death this year, only 28 were executed in various states across the country. This reflects a 33 percent drop in execution cases from last year's 73 sentences.
In addition, the group also noted that this year marks the lowest number of cases since the 1990s, which peaked in 1999 with a total of 98 executions. According to Robert Dunham, DPIC's executive director, the steadily declining trend reflects the public's perspective on death sentences.
"The use of death penalty is becoming increasingly rare and increasingly isolated in the United States," he said in a press statement according to NPR. "These are not just annual blips in statistics, but reflect a broad change in attitudes about capital punishment across the country."
But aside from the shifting stance on the matter, another factor that is greatly influencing the drop in executions in the country is the legal battle surrounding the drug used in lethal injection procedures.
As reported by Time, pharmaceutical firms that used to supply the U.S. correctional facilities with anesthetic and sedative drugs for lethal injections have stopped their partnership with the government a few years ago. As a result, states that carry out death sentences, such as Arizona and Oklahoma, have turned to the drug Midazolam to sedate inmates as part of their execution.
However, this drug wasn't tested for death sentence purposes before they were used in lethal injections. This led to the U.S. Supreme Court to hold hearings in June of this year regarding the effectiveness of Midazolam.
According to the federal court, the proceedings were initiated after three prisoners claimed that the drug could not maintain its sedative effect on death row inmates. Consequently, this could them to fully experience the painful effects of the actual lethal injection drugs once they administered. Although the U.S. Supreme Court did not find solid evidence to prove the ineffectiveness of Midazolam, various states have stopped using the drug in their executions.