Shot Down: Lethal Injection Drug Shortage May Require Change to Execution Protocol

The Austin American-Statesman reports that there's a national shortage of drugs for lethal injection. The shortage apparently began when the country's sole dealer of sodium thiopental, Hospira, decided earlier this year not to deal in it anymore, and since then, at least two states have been prevented by the shortage from executing their citizens, and the possibility that more people will live has become an issue of great concern for state governments across the country.

No state is more concerned than Texas, which is known for executions in the same way that Wisconsin is known for cheese. Government officials here have counted out their vials and figured they have sodium thiopental sufficient to kill 39 more people. In a state of 25 million, it's not nearly enough (they must feel like Crockett at the Alamo) and making matters infinitely worse, the entire supply goes bad in March.

How the state will execute people after that remains an open question, Grits for Breakfast observes, surmising that legislators may have to consider "new execution protocols" when they gather next spring.

It is fun to imagine that event: a suit-wearing, mostly Republican group of legislators, hunched around a conference table with legal pads and calculators, earnestly discussing execution protocols. It is so fun to imagine this event that I decided last night to convene a panel of my own. Gathering children around the dinner table, I asked "How should the state of Texas kill people now?" If things go for lawmakers in the spring as they went with us last night, the conversation will be punctuated with a lot of wicked laughter, and begin something like this:

"So, let's see," said child one, earnestly considering the possibilities, "there's death by falling, death by crushing, death suffocation, death by drowning." She went on and on like this, but every proposal seemed too labor intensive, too much work for the executioner. Child two seemed onto something when he suggested stretching the condemned across a floor and having him danced upon by fat ladies - death by "Rhino effect" -- but that, too, sounded like work, plus messy, and what if, for some reason, the state ran out of fat ladies?

Then child one proposed slaying inmates Sweeney Todd style and feeding them in the form of meat pies to their fellow inmates. Everyone around the table thought this a nice, ruthless blend of efficiency and economy -- a killer idea, no question - but still messy and labor-intensive, and of course, someone would have to pay the cooks.

Then child one spoke again: What about stoning?

Stoning! Not very high tech - no sizzle -- but stones are cheap, you know. Stones can be used again and again. The state would never have to worry about running out of stones and, with a committed corps of volunteer stone-throwers always ready to serve their fellow man, the state would never have to pay an executioner. Best of all (child one, you really are a diabolical genius) the state could sell the stones used in stonings! People would buy them! They would trade them on Ebay as souvenirs: "I stoned Cameron Todd Willingham!"

If this is not the best way for the state to execute its people, please offer the state a better one.

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