Last week the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, announced it was prohibiting the use of its chemicals as execution drugs: thus was the US death penalty brought to a new juncture. As the human rights organisation, Reprieve, commented:
“This is a critical turning point in the history of capital punishment in America. From today, all FDA-approved manufacturers of all potential execution drugs – a diverse group of 25 global companies – have blocked their sale for use in executions.”
States that cling to the death penalty, as Mississippi does, are now limited to the shadowy world of unregulated compounding pharmacies or overseas-based straw companies for their attempts to procure execution drugs. But their deadly intent is likely to be restrained by the increasing risk to them of intense scrutiny and legal action. Even though a secrecy bill, designed to protect compounding pharmacies from reprisal, was recently signed into law by Governor Bryant, it may prove difficult for Mississippi to persuade pharmacists to act against the advice of their professional organizations.
Some states have legalized alternative execution methods e.g. the firing squad, gas chamber or electric chair. But in Mississippi the Senate has dropped a proposed amendment to the secrecy bill which would have authorized execution by firing squad.
So for now Willie Manning and the other inmates of Mississippi’s death row are safe from execution. We welcome this news.