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Lethal injection in Delaware: How it works

February 26, 2007

This is a continuation of yesterdays post on the class action suit brought against the DoC regarding lethal injection.

I will apologize in advance, as this will not be a pleasant post, as it deals with the mechanics of killing someone. Some of you may take some comfort in the fact that it is the mechanics of killing convicted murderers and such. To those people, I say, “Fuck you.”

The State of Delaware uses the three drug method of lethal injection. This is the most common method in the US, and is used by the majority of the 38 states that allow the death penalty. The three drugs are:

Soduim Thiopental (pentothal) – a fast-acting barbiturate that is used in surgery as an anaesthetic. The surgical dose of pentothal is 3-5mg/kg of weight of the patient. A lethal injection dose is equal to 5 grams, 14 times the surgical dose. The larger dose is expected to cause unconsciousness in about 10 seconds and last up to 69 hours.

Pancuronium Bromide (pavulon) – induces paralysis. The lethal injection dose is 100mg, which in 15-30 seconds paralyzes all muscle function, including the lungs, causing asphyxiation.

Potassium Chloride – a dose of 100mEq for lethal injection affects the ability of the heart muscle to fire by depolarizing the muscle cells. The heart eventually stops in diastole.

So, there’s the tools of the grim trade. How do they do it, you ask? The condemned inmate is strapped to a gurney. Once secured, the executioner team places an IV into each arm, the second of which is a backup in case the first malfunctions. Once the IVs are in, a saline drip begins from a separate anteroom where the executioner is. Once this is going, the curtain covering the window from the witness box is pulled back. A quick note on witness to a Delaware Execution, courtesy of the DoC:

The Law presently requires the Department to have no more than 10 official witnesses present during an execution. To ensure that we have the required number, several other individuals are selected and asked to serve as alternate witnesses in the event an official witness does not show or is unable to serve. All witnesses must report to a designated location at least one hour in advance of the scheduled execution for briefing purposes. The designated location is confidential. Those who may be selected to serve as witnesses include arresting officers, and Federal Officers included in the case, Police Chiefs in the state or a designee, a representative from the Victims Rights Bureau and Criminal Justice professionals. The witnesses are separated from the person being executed by a glass window.

Other witnesses that may be invited are the media. The Department of Correction has guidelines that determine who serves as media witnesses and the logistics of allowing for media coverage of an execution. What is factored into the decision is: (1) the allotted space in the witness room and (2) what will allow for adequate coverage without overburdening security during this critical period.

At this time, the condemned has the opportunity to issue his or her final words. Then, at the word of the warden, assuming no stay of execution has been called in, the executioner starts administering the drugs in the order resented above, with a short flush of saline in between to clean the lines. About two minutes after the last drug is administered, a medical technician declares the inmate dead.

So, what could possibly be cruel and unusual about that?

Information for this post was was gathered from:

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rev Manny permalink
    March 8, 2007 1:07 pm

    Man, that’s fucking brutal.

    “Cruel and Unusual” … I’ve heard of that…. we used to have that in the, whatchacallit…. the paper… the one we haven’t really seen in a little while…. um… oh yeah… the constitution, right?

    Thanks for the post.


  2. March 8, 2007 1:12 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Rev, it’s brutal and completely unconscionable to kill anyone. Even in a manner that is “humanitarian”.

    I’m going to be writing more on this, so feel free to come back.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. meagan permalink
    April 8, 2007 8:33 pm

    eye for an eye. at least the bastard doesnt suffer physically, only emotionaly, should have thought about that before he decided to rape and skin your little sister. (if it was your family, you would probably have a different opinion of the death penalty.)

  4. April 9, 2007 7:40 pm

    Resorting to a tired cliche shows an impressive lack of real thought on the situation.

    Also, denying a simple fact (all murder is wrong) with sheer speculation (how I’d feel if I was a family member of a victim) is truly a poor argument.

    As a first comment here, not an auspicious beginning, meagan.

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