POLS 3700 Lecture Notes - Execution By Firing Squad, Drug Design, Pharmacology

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Chapman’s three drug design of lethal injection as a tool to execute death row inmates
was well received, despite the fact that Chapman had almost no experience in pharmacology.
This new method seemed to be less painful than other methods like firing squad and
electrocution, and conveniently, the paralytic lessened the visible pain of the inmate, making the
executions easier to watch (Pickert 2009). The idea that inmates are anesthetized is one of the
main arguments that lethal injections do not violate the “cruel and unusual” clause of the Eighth
Amendment. In reality, toxicology reports show that post-mortem levels of anesthesia in the
majority of inmates was below the amount required for surgery, and that most of them had
“levels consistent with awareness” (Koniaris, et al. 2005). This data proves that at the very least,
there is a dichotomy in the perceived and actual level of awareness of death row inmates, very
possibly to the point of being “cruel and unusual.”
Lethal Injection and Racism
The fact that the death penalty is greatly influenced by race is evidenced by the
disproportionate amount of black inmates on death row. African Americans currently constitute
42% of death row inmates (NAACP 2016) despite only comprising 13% of the general U.S.
population (U.S. Census 2015). The race of the victim also influenced a person’s likelihood of
being given the death penalty, with cases of white victims comprising 76% of death penalty
cases and cases with black victims constituting only 15% of cases (NAACP 2016). This huge
discrepancy has been noted by the Supreme Court since at least 1975 during the Furman v.
Georgia case, when the justices agreed that "there is evidence that the imposition of the death
sentence and the exercise of dispensing power by the courts and the executive follow
discriminatory patterns. The death sentence is disproportionately imposed and carried out on the
poor, the Negro, and the members of unpopular groups” (Furman v. Georgia 1972). Because of
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Document Summary

Chapman"s three drug design of lethal injection as a tool to execute death row inmates was well received, despite the fact that chapman had almost no experience in pharmacology. This new method seemed to be less painful than other methods like firing squad and electrocution, and conveniently, the paralytic lessened the visible pain of the inmate, making the executions easier to watch (pickert 2009). The idea that inmates are anesthetized is one of the main arguments that lethal injections do not violate the cruel and unusual clause of the eighth. In reality, toxicology reports show that post-mortem levels of anesthesia in the majority of inmates was below the amount required for surgery, and that most of them had. This data proves that at the very least, there is a dichotomy in the perceived and actual level of awareness of death row inmates, very possibly to the point of being cruel and unusual.

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