Tanya M. Maerz


Lethal injection is currently the predominant form of execution nationwide. Most proponents of this method cite the convenience and the humanity of this procedure over past methods of execution. However, lethal injections are fraught with problems such as the specificity and safety of the written procedures themselves, implementation of such procedures, and whether lethal injection and executions in general are constitutional. Most often, prisoners file constitutional challenges to lethal injections under the Eighth Amendment, which prevents imposing cruel and unusual punishment on an American citizen. One of the more recent cases in Missouri cited such a challenge to the implementation of Missouri's lethal injection guidelines. Missouri revised its guidelines in 2006, under a court order to include more specificity and to solidify the process in writing to guarantee uniformity in application of the protocol. Despite the fact that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ultimately upheld the constitutionality of Missouri's new procedure, prisoners continue to challenge its legality in hopes of someday bringing a fruitful claim. Aside from the constitutional questions, lethal injection raises a host of other concerns, most notably the ethical dilemma of including medical personnel on the execution team. The interpretation of these statutes and society's perception of the circumstances surrounding the death penalty and lethal injections remain to be seen as courts continue to examine these issues.

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