The Science of Executions
Albert Greenwood Brown is a convicted murderer, and he was sentenced to death penalty because of it. He was supposed to be executed this last Wednesday, but his fate got one little extra chance. The reason why he is still alive is because the laws regarding the lethal injection in California are in debate.
However, he will not face the death penalty this month, and it is very likely that he will not face it this year. The reason is that all the supply of a certain drug which is used in the composition of the lethal injection expired on October the 1st. The drug is called sodium thiopental, and it has been in very short supply for a very long time now. Many states from the U.S which are using the death penalty could be affected by it, but for the moment, California is the only one that is in this situation. The only manufacturer of the drug in the United States of America is Hospira Pharmaceuticals, a company from Illinois.
The company said that the reason for the short supply of the most important ingredient of the drug is a supply issue. Daniel Rosenberg, who is the spokesman of the company, said that the drug is used in the case of the executions via the lethal injection, by acting as an anesthetic. It is also used in other cases as well, not just for the lethal injection. Three different drugs are used in the case of the lethal injection. Sodium thiopental is the first one used for sedation, the second one is pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles and arrests the breathing, and the third one is potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
There are lots of debates regarding the death penalty. Many people consider it to be highly immoral, and against the constitution. The death penalty is still used in 35 states from U.S. The lethal injection is the most common type of execution used in the United States of America, but there are some states that allow the prisoners to choose their own method of dying. For example in New Hampshire and Washington State, hanging can be used; however there are certain requirements which need to be made for this type of execution to occur. In New Hampshire, the method can not be used if the lethal injection method is available. In Washington State, the inmate can choose hanging if he wants to.Hanging should be very effective, as the weight of the body snaps the neck, and death should come instan
tly. However, there have been many instances over the course of history, when hangings went wrong. For example the rope might be too long, or death might not occur instantly. There have been many cases when the prisoner suffered for 30 minutes until he lost his life. According to the office of the prosecuting attorney of Clark County, Indiana which has the task of keeping a website on death penalty cases, said that the people complained about this method of execution in the beginning of 1900s. Since 1977, only three people have been executed by hanging in the United States of America.
Electrocution is also used in the United States of America, in nine states. William Kemmler, an axe murderer was the first person from the United States of America that was killed in this manner. It was seen as an alternative to hanging, and it supposed large amounts of electricity to enter the body. The first execution in this manner was not too pretty, as it required two jolts. The first one did not stop his heart, as it was supposed to. Nebraska was the last state in the United States of America that used electrocution as the main execution method, but was abolished in 2008. The last person who was executed in this manner was Paul Warner Powell, in 2001.
The gas chamber is used in Arizona, California, Maryland and Missouri. It is not the main type of execution, but the convict can choose it if they want to. In the case of this execution, the convict is placed in an airtight chamber, and potassium cyanide pellets are dropped into a bucket of sulfuric acid. The result is a hydrogen cyanide gas, and kills the prisoner. The gas chamber was developed in 1921, and just like the case of the electrocution, the first time when it occurred, went pretty bad. The execution via this method is very long, and in the case of Caryl Chessman, who was executed in 1960s, the witnesses said, that he coughed and struggled for more than 10 minutes.
In 1983, Jimmy Lee Gray, a convicted murderer and rapist struggled for so long, that the witnesses were removed from the observation room. This method was used 11 times since 1976, the last time when it happened being 1999.
The firing squad is only used in Utah, by the inmates who have been sentenced to death before 2004. This method can also be used in Oklahoma, but only if the lethal injection and the electrocution can not be used for whatever reasons. The firing squad executions are performed by five men. One of them has a dummy bullet, so no one can know if he has been the one who delivered the fatal shot. The condemned person is strapped on a chair, in a room which is covered with sandbags, so the bullets would not ricochet.
Death should occur very fast if the executioners hit their target. During the 1938 execution of convicted murderer John Deering, it has been observed that his heart stopped after 30 seconds. This method of execution is not used too often, but it has been used since 1976, three times, and in Idaho. Double murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner, chose in 2010 the firing squad and that made sensations in the news. The lethal injection is by far the most used execution method, as it has been used 1,054 times since 1976.11