Future of Lethal Injection in Question

After the Supreme Court announced they would hear a case on the constitutionality of lethal injections, many states put a moratorium on executions.

Dahlia Lithwick, legal analyst for the online magazine Slate, says the issue of lethal injection has been working through the system for a number of years.

The case going before the Supreme Court is basically a challenge based on the constitutional protocol against cruel and unusual punishment, Lithwick says. Some studies have suggested that the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections causes condemned inmates massive amounts of pain, which they are unable to express because of the paralyzing agent.

While a number of states instituted a moratorium on lethal injects until the high court issues its decision, Lithwick says the court case is shaping up to be a fight over the future of the death penalty. If the court determines lethal injection is cruel and unusual, then states will be force to find a kinder and gentler way to execute their inmates.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case early next year.

Lithwick talks to Alex Cohen about the case.

Also, the American Bar Association has called the execution process "deeply flawed" and recommends every state review its procedures.

Stephen F. Hanlon, chairman of the ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project, says studies conducted by the group have found that race and geography have a huge impact in whether someone will receive the death penalty. In addition, the system is not set up with sufficient resources to deal with such highly complex and emotional cases.

At this point, Hanlon says, the ABA has no confidence in the death penalty system.

However, a poll finds 69 percent of Americans continue to favor the death penalty. That includes William "Rusty" Hubbarth, vice president for legal affairs for the Texas victims' advocacy group, Justice for All.

Hanlon and Hubbarth discuss the issue with Alex Cohen.

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