Compared to a firing squad or electric chair, receiving a lethal injection as a death sentence seems pretty good. After all, it’s a painless, twenty-minute procedure that takes place while the inmate is asleep. However, a recent execution in Lucasville, Ohio in which it took 10 tries and two hours to successfully kill a man has raised questions in the use of lethal injections as a means of execution. Christopher Newton was sentenced to die by both the state’s and his own request after he choked, stomped on, and tried to strangle cell mate Jason Brewer in 2001 after an argument over a chess game. Despite apologizing to Brewer’s family, Newton was comical and chatty, and was even given permission to use the bathroom while the executioners struggled for two hours to find a vein in his arm.

The procedure was eventually successful, resulting in Newton being pronounced dead at 11:53am. They claimed that his weight at 265 pounds inhibited the procedure. This is not the first man to have had his execution delayed because of problems finding a vein. In May 2006, Joseph Lewis Clark’s execution took 90 minutes because his veins were so damaged from longtime drug use. Now, a group of Ohio inmates are suing the state, claiming that their method of lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel.

The lethal injection procedure was developed by Dr. Jay Chapman about 25 years ago. Since then, 37 states use the procedure. However, the results of new studies showing that the inmates who undergo these procedures sometimes do feel pain have caused 11 states to stop using the method. The procedure uses three drugs to execute an inmate. The first is an anesthetic drug called sodium thiopental to cause them to go into an unconscious state. Then they administer a paralytic called pancuronium bromide to inhibit muscle use, including the breathing muscles before giving them a drug to stop their heart. Sometimes, though that particular anesthetic doesn’t work with certain inmates, and once the paralytic kicks in, they are unable to move so they suffocate while still awake. These realizations have caused even Chapman to doubt the credibility of his procedure. In saying this, the question that arises from discovering these facts about lethal injections is, what is a humane way to execute a person? After all, the entire business of execution is to result in death, and maybe there is no death that is completely painless.

For related articles on Newton’s death and the lethal injection controversy, visit

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