For those who haven't heard, the State of Ohio announced last Friday that it was adopting a single-drug method to execute capital crime inmates instead of the 3-drug "cocktail" employed by 35 other states in the nation using lethal injection – "wading," as the Associated Press referred to it, "into largely uncharted territory." ( Article )(Ohio Dept. of Corrections’ announcement )
The drug – thiopental sodium – is commonly used to euthanize animals, in some parts of Europe for assisted suicide, and, in much lower doses, obviously, to sedate patients for surgery; but it has apparently never been used to execute prisoners.
The AP article said, death penalty opponents were hailing the decision as making executions more humane, while also expressing reservations about using an untested method. Ty Alper, associate director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, law school, was quoted as saying, "This is a significant step forward. Paralyzing inmates before executing them — so we can't tell whether they are suffering — is a barbaric practice, and Ohio should be commended for stopping it." Richard Dieter, director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, noted reservations about the new practice and said it would essentially be an experiment performed on inmates. "They're human subjects and they're not a willingly part of this… It's experimenting with the unknown, and that always raises concerns."
The motion the filed last Friday in U.S. District Court is expected to lead to a dismissal of the primary constitutional challenge to the state’s lethal injection methodology.
The U.S. Supreme Court, last year in Baze v. Rees, upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection in Kentucky, but, the article points out, "Ohio's new system is substantially different than the three-drug process the Court examined in that case. In that opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts addressed, briefly, the single sedative dose large enough to cause death, saying it had problems of its own, having never been tried by any state."