What's the Latest?
Some states are discussing returning to firing squads to execute prisoners after the lethal injection of an Oklahoma inmate went wrong last month due to the use of an untested chemical cocktail. The cause of the incident is widely thought to be the European Union's ban on certain chemical exports which it restricts because of its opposition to capital punishment. "This has caused a shortage of the drugs previously used in executions. States have turned to less-precise compounding pharmacies to create new drug cocktails, the details about which are closely guarded secrets in some states."
What's the Big Idea?
Observers of the execution process say talk of firing squads is more political theatre than earnest policy proposal. Because states are increasingly given to using untested chemicals to carry out executions, some legislatures have passed secrecy laws that shield the chemical providers from public scrutiny. And because the image of firing squads is unpalatable--"there would be smoke and blood and smells and people would be sick watching it," said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center--states believe the public will inevitably prefer lethal injections.