Arizona is painting us a vivid picture what it’s like to be in the business of state-sponsored executions today.
Executions have been on hold there since 2014, when the state used an experimental drug cocktail to execute a man — and he gasped and struggled for air for two hours as executioners frantically administered 15 doses of drugs.
Last year, desperate to restart executions despite a drug shortage — Arizona paid $27,000 to buy execution drugs from India, only to have federal agents seize the drugs at the airport because the purchase violated federal law.
Now, in another audacious ploy, the state is telling inmates facing execution that they can provide the deadly drugs themselves to ensure a quick and painless execution. Yes, Arizona is asking prisoners to bring their own drugs to their executions.
It seems Arizona is willing to do just about anything to keep its execution chamber running. Lawyers for the condemned say its newest scheme asks them to break the law, since only doctors and pharmacists are legally allowed to obtain drugs for executions.
During the past few years, as drug suppliers have refused to sell their products for the purpose of killing, many states have been left scrambling for lethal injection drugs.
They have looked to experimental drugs, compounding pharmacies, and other makeshift methods of killing — leading to botched executions across the nation. Some states have considered bringing back firing squads and passed laws making the providers of their drugs state secrets. Now, Arizona has set a new bar for wild schemes.
North Carolina has mercifully been left out of this grim circus. It has not executed a prisoner since 2006 amid lawsuits about our own previously-botched executions, as well as the influence of racial bias on capital cases.
If those who want executions to resume in North Carolina get their way, we will find ourselves in the same position as Arizona — experimenting on human beings with untested execution methods, all behind a veil of state-sponsored secrecy.
There is simply no reason to be in this business. Not when it requires states to break the law and risk gruesome, torturous spectacles. Not when doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and drug companies all refuse to participate for ethical reasons. And not when prisoners can be punished harshly, and at far less cost to taxpayers, with sentences of life without parole.