US death penalty states face a deepening crisis in their struggle to procure medical drugs for use in lethal injections, with new evidence that the increasingly random methods being used are subjecting condemned prisoners to prolonged and possibly excruciating deaths.
A Guardian survey of death sentences carried out over the past three years by Texas – the most prolific of all execution states – has found that the procedure now takes on average twice as long as under previous protocols. A study of Texas department of criminal justice records and eyewitness media reports mainly from the Associated Press shows a notable lengthening of the death process following the switch in July 2012 from the conventional three-drug cocktail to a single drug, pentobarbital.
Ten executions prior to the change took on average 10 minutes to complete, ranging from nine to 11 minutes between the administration of the lethal injection and the declaration of death.
The next 23 executions using only pentobarbital took on average 20 minutes, with the full range between 12 to 30 minutes.