Texas Executes Prisoners Like Dogs Now. And (If We're Going to Kill Them Anyway) That's A Good Thing

Categories: Crime

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On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced it would use a single drug -- pentobarbital, a barbiturate -- to carry out executions due to a shortage of one component in a three-drug cocktail.

Overseas manufacturers of pancuronium bromide, a powerful paralytic, have halted shipments to the U.S., protesting its use in lethal injections. That leaves one company to supply the American state-sanctioned execution market. TDCJ officials still have enough pentobarbital, however, to put its prisoners to death on schedule. So from now on, when a man or woman is executed in a Texas prison, it will be with a single, lethal dose of a barbiturate, much the same method used to end the suffering of a beloved pet.


That's not a criticism. Apart from abolishing the death penalty altogether, this is the most humane change to its method of death-dealing the state has ever undertaken.

In 2009, I witnessed the execution of a Tennessee farmer and drug addict named Steve Henley. He was convicted of shooting his neighbors, an elderly couple his family had known for decades. Before he fled, according to testimony, he poured gasoline around the bodies and burned them up. An autopsy revealed the woman died of smoke inhalation, not gunshot wounds. As far as anyone knew, he was the only one with a motive. Henley sued the couple after a head-on collision on the narrow country road that stretched past their houses. He had always maintained his innocence, right up to the moment he lost consciousness. He was convicted of an awful thing. But if you think lethal injection is too peaceful an end for those who take lives, I recommend witnessing one.

First, a barbiturate, sodium thiopental, was administered to induce unconsciousness. Then pancuronium bromide paralyzed every muscle in his body, including the diaphragm, which draws air into his lungs. As he suffocated, Henley's face turned a violent shade of purple, and his neck, despite the paralytic, perceptibly shifted and strained for a few moments, before the drug stilled him. Finally, a lethal dose of potassium chloride stopped his heart. After 14 minutes, Henley was pronounced dead.

His daughter, son and sister saw the whole thing. They wanted their loving faces to be the last he saw. It was their suffering that sticks with me. I know that they will never recover from it. But months later, it wasn't just his death or their anguish that kept me up at night. It was how he died. An autopsy revealed there wasn't enough sodium thiopental in his system to keep him under. He was awake as he suffocated, but he couldn't register his agony because every muscle in his body was paralyzed. Whatever we may think he deserved, that kind of death diminishes us all.

I sincerely doubt a sudden humane streak had anything whatsoever to do with the TDCJ's decision, but I welcome it nonetheless.


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9 comments
todd
todd

Imagine the killing (every pun intended) someone could make if they had Pentobarbital in stock and was selling it to U.S. prisons.  

Sandrine Ageorges Skinner
Sandrine Ageorges Skinner

Lundbeck never manufactured or sold pancuronium bromide, but pentobarbital. Hospira still manufactures and sells pancuronium bromide without any kind of of controlled distribution system. Hospira is a US company. 

Gat2keeponmovin
Gat2keeponmovin

" An autopsy revealed the woman died of smoke inhalation, not gunshot wounds." "An autopsy revealed there wasn't enough sodium thiopental in his system to keep him under. He was awake as he suffocated, but he couldn't register his agony because every muscle in his body was paralyzed. " Can almost make you believe in karma...

Petra
Petra

Wikipedia says that it's pentobarbital which is no longer available...? "Pentobarbital has been approved or considered for use in executions in various U.S. states.[9] The Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, Lundbeck, expressed displeasure at this use of their product, and on July 1, 2011, announced they would block sales of the drug to U.S. prisons that carry out the death penalty. Lundbeck adamantly opposes the distressing misuse of our product in capital punishment.[10] They explained this decision with their commitment to UN human rights principles. [9]"

Relodave69
Relodave69

We are as humane as we can be, given that we are taking a life.  This is just a veiled attack on the Death penalty itself.  Just come out and state that you are against Capital Punishment.  it would be more honest.

todd
todd

IMO, DNA should be the only standard to convict for capital punishment.  Eye witness testimony is too unreliable.  I do not want to anyone to be executed for a crime they did not commit.  BUT... once DNA has established guilt, I really do not care about the amount of suffering the convict goes through leading up to or during the execution.  Granted, I have not witnessed an execution and I suppose doing so could change my stance.  It may be barbaric, but I do not feel the need to provide any kind of comfort to a convict that he/she was unwilling to provide their victim.  YMMV.      

Anon
Anon

Wrongful convictions based on racism in thr legal system? Life in prison seems like a sensible alternative to the prospect of turning the system into an agent of murder. Who within the legal system gets lethal injection when they figure out that an innocent person has been killed, and if you reply that is hasn't happened, I don't intend to reply. I actually think that capital punishment is justified morally I simply can't accept that a system with human flaws should be allowed to administer it.

Russp
Russp

Come on Scruff, the guillotine is quick ,clean and probably painless (at least Marie Antionette didn't complain).

halldecker
halldecker

It's awfully hard to get DNA from a shotgun or knife.   Fingerprints,  maybe.

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