November 9, 2016 5:31 pm -

This is not a good sign for abolishing government-sponsored killing.

Last night, Nebraska voted to bring back the death penalty. A slim majority of California voters, given the choice between abolishing state-sanctioned killing and speeding it up, opted for the latter: Proposition 66, which deprives death row inmates of certain appeals processes, passed by 51 percent. Meanwhile Proposition 62, which would have abolished a practice abandoned in all other Western countries, got only 46 percent of the vote in a state so liberal that it legalized marijuana last night.


Oklahoma, which has a less than stellar record in administering the death penalty—prison officials have a long and sordid history of botched executions—voted to entrench capital punishment in its state constitution, declaring executions free from intervention by state courts that might deem the state’s execution tactics cruel and unusual punishment.

This begs the question: how exactly do all these states plan to kill people given the shortage of lethal injection drugs?

Thanks to a successful activist campaign, mainstream pharmaceutical companies no longer provide US Departments of Correction with drugs to be used for executions. The European Union forbids the sale of death penalty drugs, so companies based in Europe have to actively ensure their drugs don’t end up in the death chamber needle; many drug manufacturers force their distributors to sign contracts pledging not to sell their drugs to US prisons for use in executions.

The lack of death penalty drugs has led states to turn to a wide array of unconstitutional and inhumane tactics. A handful of states have passed secrecy laws that shield the identities of small-scale compounding pharmacies that agree to make the drugs. Others have experimented with drug cocktails that have led to deaths “akin in level of pain and suffering to being buried alive, burning at the stake,” death penalty critics have argued.



D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.