Michael Portillo looks at the science behind executions.

Gas Chamber.

Arizona, Missouri, and Wyoming authorize execution by lethal gas as an alternative method. Wyoming specifically provides this method only if lethal injection were ever to be found unconstitutional.


Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia authorize execution by electrocution as an alternative method. Oklahoma allows death by electrocution if lethal injection is ever found to be unconstitutional.

From January 2001 through February 2014, 10 of 683 executions were carried out by electrocution. The last person to be executed by electrocution was Robert Gleason in Virginia on January 16, 2013.

Capital Punishment The end of the death penalty

Were the reporters who witnessed what happened, were they able to shed any light on at what point things seemed to go wrong? What I read today is that the process of putting the drug in that was a sedative was supposed to happen first. And the man being who was executed was declared unconscious, but then after another drug went in was when things started to go wrong.

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The lethal injection, everyone agrees, is humane method of execution if carried out properly. This particular execution was not carried out properly. We have human error of some sort. And that needs to be investigated.

Yes, they did. And we all did.

As a media witness pool, they ask you to come back and report to the other members what happened. A lot of us were set to watch the 8:

What is your understanding of what happened here? What went wrong?

00 p.m. execution that was supposed to take place, but didn’t. That’s the one I was there to witness. But we immediately reported what they had seen and done.

DEBORAH DENNO, Fordham University School of Law:

This case we are seeing revealed a sharp divide among the justices about the death penalty itself. And I’m going to ask you about this. And I want to first read two of the comments made by the justices in their opinions. In the majority, Justice Alito said — quote — “Because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution doesn’t require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune.”

So, opening up this much, much bigger question.

And, at the time, they had been rushed out of there with the curtain closed. They didn’t know where he stood, if Mr. Lockett was still alive, if he was being worked on or rushed to the hospital. So, they were just reporting what he had seen, which was that he was on the gurney as late as 6:

OK. There were the two other major opinions.

So, Marcia, let’s turn now to the decisions that were handed out this morning that we knew might be coming today, starting with the one to uphold the right of Oklahoma to use this controversial drug as part of their lethal injection execution.