Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Executions fall due to cost, lack of lethal drug | Reuters

Reuters is reporting a slowdown in executions in the United Sates because of shortage of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic used in executions. Apparently, the chemical is imported from other countries for use in the United States. It's shortage has forced American executioners to search for alternatives, especially after British groups have threatened a law suite against those involved in exporting the chemical from England to the United States. In Oklahoma, for instance, the State used pentobarbital, a drug commonly used to euthanize animals.

Also reported in the same story is the fact that of the 1,234 executions conducted in the United States since 1976, Texas and Virginia accounted for half.

It is extremely repugnant to even entertain the idea that the government has the mandate to take away human life. Even more disturbing is the fact that some States in the United States are more execution-happy than others. Are Texans and Virginians more violent than the rest of the Americans or that the State Legislature and the Courts are more self-righteous and do not think much of killing human beings.

It is however neither Texas nor Virginia that lead the world in state-sponsored executions. On a per capita basis, Iran and Saudi Arabia lead the world in killing their own. China, on the other, hand conducts the most executions.

I oppose death penalty not because I am soft on crime, but because the death penalty can be abused by the State, as is the case in Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Make no mistake, the US is not much better. Statistical analysis has repeatedly shown that in the United States, a black convict is multiple times more likely to be executed if found guilty of murdering a white person than vice versa. It is better that as humans we acknowledge the limits of our rationality and our vulnerability to biases and prejudices.

(Reuters) - The United States executed fewer people this year, in part because there is a shortage of the drug used in lethal injections and because executions are too expensive in tough economic times, a report released on Tuesday said.The Death Penalty Information Center said in its annual report that executions decreased 12 percent this year and new death sentences stayed near the lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
Texas led the nation with 17 of the 46 executions carried out this year in the United States. The total is down from 52 in 2009 and less than half the number put to death in 1999.
"Whether it's concerns about the high costs of the death penalty at a time when budgets are being slashed, the risks of executing the innocent, unfairness, or other reasons, the nation continued to move away from the death penalty in 2010," Richard Dieter, the center's executive director and author of the report, said in a statement.
One factor reducing or delaying executions is difficulty obtaining sodium thiopental, one of the drugs used in lethal injection executions, the Washington-based group said.
Executions were postponed or canceled in five states due to a shortage of the drug, it said. Arizona imported some from Britain, where executions have been abolished, but Britain is now restricting the drug's exportation.
New death sentences in 2010 will total 114, near the lowest level since 1976 when executions were authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court, and down two-thirds from their peak in 1996.
There have been 1,234 executions in the United States since 1976, nearly half of those carried out in Texas and Virginia.

Executions fall due to cost, lack of lethal drug | Reuters

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