The execution of John Ruthell Henry, charged with the murder of his wife and her 5-year-old son, in Florida Wednesday evening marked the third execution in a 24-hour period since the botched lethal injection in Oklahoma in late April. Inmates in Georgia and Missouri were executed by lethal injection late Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning. Reports from the prisons suggest all three executions went as planned, though that did little to quiet concerns from critics about the secrecy policies regarding the drugs being used in those three states and elsewhere in the country in the face of a drug shortage crisis.
“These issues about the things that make execution risky are not going away. There’s been no change in these terrible and rampant secrecy policies,” says Cassy Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Capital Punishment Project.
Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett died from a heart attack 30 minutes after his execution was halted when it became clear that the state’s new three-drug lethal injection mix had not been properly administered, causing Lockett extreme pain. An autopsy showed that the executioner attempted to insert the IV in Lockett’s groin – known to be more painful and riskier than other entry points – and the incident spurred new scrutiny of lethal injection practices in states where the death penalty is most prevalent. Even President Barack Obama weighed in, calling the matter “deeply troubling.” Before Lockett’s execution, the Ohio use of an untested combination of drugs on Dennis B. McGuire in January caused what appeared to be a painful and prolonged execution; also in Oklahoma in January, an inmate reportedly said, “I feel my whole body burning” during his lethal injection via a controversial mix of drugs.
“Disappointingly, I think there’s a short-term memory problem in terms of botched executions because we have a long history of botch executions,” says Antonio Ginatta, U.S. advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, which opposes the death penalty. States waited until the collective outrage died over Clayton Lockett to resume lethal injections, he adds.