Executions: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Executions: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Concerns about the Death Penalty in the United States

  • Since the last episode on the death penalty, the US has executed 91 people, including 13 at the federal level under the Trump administration.
  • The Trump administration used a single massive shot of pentobarbital for executions, causing inmates to suffer and struggle.
  • There are concerns about the source of the drugs used in executions, as many suppliers refuse to provide them due to negative publicity.
  • Some states have enacted secrecy laws to conceal information about the execution process, including the names of drug suppliers and participants.
  • The use of tainted or improperly formulated drugs has led to botched executions that are both horrifying and unconstitutional.
  • States are increasingly giving up on the three-drug cocktail method and switching to a single massive shot of pentobarbital, which is no less brutal.

The Trump Administration's Use of Pentobarbital

  • The Trump administration used pentobarbital for executions, but the source of the drug is unclear.
  • Absolute Standards, a Connecticut-based company, is suspected of being the supplier of pentobarbital to the Trump administration.
  • Absolute Standards is registered with the DEA to produce pentobarbital, and the timeline of their registration matches the time when the Bureau of Prisons entered into a contract with a new pentobarbital supplier.
  • A confidential source confirmed that Absolute Standards is the company that made the drugs used in executions.
  • Absolute Standards is not registered with the FDA to make drugs for human consumption, which may be a violation of the law.

Other States' Use of Pentobarbital

  • Arizona's Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, also obtained pentobarbital from Absolute Standards for state executions, despite concerns about the legality of the drugs.
  • The federal appeals court in DC has ruled that drug laws still apply when drugs are used for lethal injections, contradicting the DOJ's opinion that the FDA has no jurisdiction over drugs intended for executions.
  • Arizona's current governor has paused executions pending a review of the transparency, accountability, and safety of the execution process.

Alternative Methods of Execution

  • South Carolina is considering alternative methods of execution, such as the electric chair, if lethal injection is not available.
  • The use of nitrogen gas as a method of execution is gaining popularity in the United States, despite concerns about its humaneness.
  • Oklahoma was the first state to authorize nitrogen gas executions, followed by several others.
  • The first nitrogen gas execution in Alabama was described as "horrific" by witnesses, with the inmate struggling for their life.

Secrecy and the Death Penalty

  • Secrecy surrounding the death penalty is meant to protect those involved in the process, but it also prevents the public from independently confirming that executions are humane.
  • Lethal injection is often marketed as humane, but there is evidence to suggest that it is not.

Arguments Against the Death Penalty

  • The death penalty does not lower the number of killers in the world and creates more victims.
  • The Biden administration could take steps to reduce the use of the death penalty, such as commuting federal death sentences and investigating the legality of drug purchases.
  • State legislatures should eliminate secrecy statutes related to the death penalty and allow for greater public scrutiny of the process.

Overwhelmed by Endless Content?