A Welcome Respite

Periods of active state execution are always traumatic for death row inmates: it is torturous watching people that you know being taken away to be killed.

It is very good news for Willie Manning and his fellow inmates, then, that the current three-year respite from the scheduling of executions in Mississippi is likely to be further prolonged by a case out of Missouri. The US Supreme Court has agreed to review the Missouri case, which addresses the means by which an inmate can show that a less painful execution method is available; the outcome could be relevant to litigation in Mississippi.

Mississippi’s execution protocol has evolved in response to shortages of drugs previously used for lethal injections. Midazolam has replaced pentobarbital as the first drug for the state’s 3-drug protocol, despite huge concerns about its efficacy as an anaesthetic. 

Mississippi further demonstrates its commitment to executions by its recent addition of non-drug options for execution: if lethal injection is considered ‘unconstitutional or “otherwise unavailable”’, then it can use nitrogen hypoxia, electrocution or firing squad to kill the convicted. 

The firing squad was initially rejected by a Senate committee but was reinstated by the Mississippi House.

At least while litigation continues, it is unlikely that any execution dates will be set in Mississippi. And we are thankful for that.

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