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Tortured to Death in the US

"The manner in which Texas carries out the execution of human beings is riskier, less transparent, and has less oversight than the euthanasia of cats, dogs, birds, lizards."

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Legal challenges have not been able to stop executions using pentobarbital, and the Obama administration has mostly stayed out of the way. On May 4, Texas killed its first prisoner using the drug, and two days later South Carolina followed suit. Georgia and Virginia have switched to pentobarbital, and Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, whose supplies of sodium thiopental were also seized by the DEA earlier this year, are poised to do the same. Reprieve is targeting the Danish company Lundbeck, which has sold pentobarbital to several states despite lingering questions about its use to kill human beings. “I would say it has not been vetted,” says Levin. “It certainly hasn't been vetted in Texas.” Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, calls it “human experimentation.”

“It's sort of tragic that the only way we're going to find out just how painful the process is by killing some people,” he says. Fordham law professor Deborah Denno, a leading legal scholar on lethal injection, points out another serious concern.

“Baze said that any other [lethal injection] protocol had to be 'substantially similar' to what Kentucky was using. And some of these are not substantially similar protocols,” she says. “In a right world, the Supreme Court should be hearing that.”

Liliana Segura is an AlterNet staff writer and editor of Rights & Liberties and World Special Coverage. Follow her on Twitter.

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