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Botched Executions- Research

14 February 2010

While reading chapter four of the text, the topic of botched executions caught my eye.  Through my research, I was rather surprised at the amount of botched executions that have occurred in the United States.  Even more shocking to me, was that there have been many botched executions within the last three decades.  Botched executions make up three percent of all executions, a number that may seem small in most cases, but when used to discuss this topic, is seen as rather high.  The following link lists forty-two cases of executions gone wrong in the last thirty years.

From the cases provided on this list, it can be seen that even in modern times, our society still has instances of executions taking a wrong turn.  The methods that appeared most on the list were lethal injection and electrocution, as they are the most common in modern time.

Lethal Injection

Most often, lethal injection cases are considered botched when the execution takes much longer than expected.  Some executions have lasted upwards of two hours, fifteen times as long as the average of eight minutes.  Another reason that a lethal injection execution may be considered botched, is if the prisoner displays signs of pain.  In these cases, the prisoner’s Eighth Amendment rights may be in violation.  Factors that most commonly lead to faulty executions are incorrect IV placement and not injecting enough of the anaesthetic. 

Angel Diaz’s execution on December 13th, 2006 is an example of a lethal injection execution going terribly wrong.  When putting in the IV, the executioner actually passed through the entire vein and went into the soft tissue of Diaz’s arm.  For this reason, the chemicals of the first injection did not reach the bloodstream correctly so Diaz did not lose consciousness in the typical three to four minutes.  Twenty-four minutes after the first injection, Diaz showed signs of movement- blinking, grimacing, blowing, and mouthing words.  With these signs, Diaz was given a second dose and

The most recent case in which lethal injection went wrong was on September 15, 2009 during the execution of Romell Broom in Ohio.  During the process, the executioner stuck Broom eighteen times with needles in attempt to find a suitable vein in both his arms and legs to put the IV in.  After two hours, the execution team stopped trying, making Broom’s execution the first failed lethal injection execution in world history.


An example of an electrocution taking a very wrong turn would be the 1983 execution of John Evans.  The electrode attached to the strap on Evans’ leg caught fire after the first jolt of electricity was administered.  On top of that, sparks and smoke came from under the hood placed over Evans’ head in the area of his left temple.  The executioner then reapplied the electrode on Evans’ leg and jolted him with a second current of electricity.  Evans’ heart kept beating so a third jolt was administered, killing Evans after fourteen minutes.

With each botched execution, questions over the use of the death penalty have come forward.  Many people debate whether the methods used for execution should be considered cruel and unusual.  A firsthand account of the pain that can be felt during lethal injection came from Bennie Demps, who had to have a second IV put in because the first one failed.  In his last words, Demps said,

“They butchered me back there. I was in a lot of pain. They cut me in the groin, they cut me in the leg. I was bleeding profusely. This is not an execution, it is murder.”

Botched executions have even led courts to look further into whether their execution methods are humane.  Two days after Diaz’s execution, Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said that California’s lethal injection protocol was constitutionally defective, stating that it has the potential to put the inmate at risk of suffering pain extreme enough to violate his or her Eighth Amendment rights.  Other states that have questioned the constitutionality of lethal injection include: Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

for some reason, the blog won’t let me finish the sentence in the second paragraph under lethal injection, so this is how the paragraph should end- finally declared dead after another thirty-four minutes.

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