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Lethal injection: A violation of cruel and unusual punishment (8th Amendment)

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Supreme Court's ruling on Eighth Amendment violations
  3. Appeals made by death row inmates
  4. Understanding the constitutional issues surrounding lethal injections
  5. Comments by scholars
  6. The study on botched lethal injections
  7. Lethal injection: The humane way
  8. The standards of decency factor
  9. Conclusion
  10. Works cited

In 1976 lethal injection became a legally sanctioned method of execution and was quickly adopted by the majority of states. In the thirty years since its implementation, lethal injection is still considered to be the most humane means of executing a death row inmate and is the preferred method in 37 of the 38 states in which capital punishment is legal. While death by electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and the firing squad have remained legal, 901 death row inmates have been executed via lethal injection, as opposed to the 169 persons executed by one of the other legalized methods (Dieter, DPIC). Despite common conceptions of lethal injection as a calm, painless, and relatively peaceful procedure, several incidents prove otherwise as disputes rage concerning lethal injection as a violation of the Eighth Amendment's protection from cruel and unusual punishment. Because of the exceedingly high percentage of botched executions, lethal injection must be both reformed and regulated in every state with the help of doctors, nurses, and trained professionals to ensure that it is administered in a manner that does not result in cruel or unusual punishment.

[...] The Furman case set precedence by expanding the interpretation of the Eighth Amendment to consider both evolving moral standards and a disregard for human dignity as inherent in the definition of cruel and unusual punishment. In additional cases, the court concluded that capital punishment must cause unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, physical violence, or offense to human decency? (Acker 719). However, these largely ambiguous statements have resulted in ceaseless debate, thus warranting a more narrowly defined relationship between capital punishment and the Eighth Amendment. [...]


[...] Stephen McCoy's injections provide indisputable evidence of cruel and unusual punishment. McCoy had a violent physical reaction, which most likely could have been avoided with an earlier examination and physician oversight. ?According to witnesses, McCoy gagged, coughed violently, and underwent bodily contortions. One witness fainted, and the attorney general suggested that perhaps the required dose of chemicals had been underestimated? (Haines 128). In the case of Rickey Ray Rector, a severely obese, brain damaged convict who was executed in Arkansas, ?moaned in pain as the execution team spent 50 minutes jabbing his flesh in search of a suitable vein? (Anderson par 18). [...]

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