Friday, September 20, 2013

Update: The killing machine is running out of fuel

Robert Garza is dead. He was murdered by the State of Texas, not because he killed anyone, but because he was there. The law of parties may be fine when it comes to burglary or robbery cases but when it comes to deciding who gets the needle and who dies in prison, it's wholly inadequate.

If we are going to keep our antiquated, barbaric system of killing inmates because we're mad at them, then we damn sure shouldn't be strapping anyone down to that gurney if they weren't the person who pulled the trigger. Sure, driving the car or being the lookout may make you just as culpable as the person who did the killing - but it shouldn't get you a date with the executioner.

And now, with the murder of Robert Garza, the State of Texas is down to its last two doses of pentobarbital. With their sources of the drug drying up due to more and more people opposing the death penalty, states have been scrambling to find other ways to obtain drugs to kill inmates.

Georgia hired a compounding pharmacy to make its lethal doses of pentobarbital and then made the source of the drug a state secret. Since the FDA doesn't give compounding pharmacies a second look to ensure that the drugs they make do what they're supposed to, we have no way of knowing whether the inmate suffers unnecessarily.

The State of Texas is silent as to how it plans to obtain future supplies of the drug. Should Texas decide to go the compounding pharmacy route it will open the process up to a new wave of appeals based on the lack of quality control and regulation over the drug. It also raises questions as to whether the pharmacist compounding the drugs is violating his ethical duty as a pharmacist.

Unless states decide upon a new method of murdering inmates, we will reach a day in the not-too-distant future in which the lack of drugs and public opinion will end capital punishment as we know it. The number of states that have abolished the death penalty is growing. We will reach a point at which capital punishment will be considered unusual.

It's just a question of how many more men and women must die before we reach that day.

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