House Republicans pushed to reinstate the use of electrocution, firing squad and the gas chamber to execute prisoners sentenced to the death penalty, earlier this week.
The GOP vote came on Wednesday, February 8, in response to a movement to ban death by injection in the state, after years of debate over the "torturous" nature of the method. Rather than simply allowing the state to abolish the death penalty for lack of a replacement of lethal injection, House Bill 638 was drafted to protect the fatal sentence.
As it stands, 33 states have instituted lethal injection as their means of execution, while eight resort to electrocution, 5 use gas chambers and 2 [Oklahoma and Utah] still kill by firing squad. Should any of the alternative methods pass in the state legislature, it would be the first time since the 1950's, when they executed by electric chair, that Mississippi exercised the death penalty by any means but the injection's lethal cocktail.
Attorney Jim Craig is currently representing a prisoner who has been challenging the death penalty in the state. He predicts that lawmakers will be hard pressed to find the support needed to get the bill passed in court. "Every single one, in essence, just injects a whole new series of issues in the existing case," he told the Associated Press. Mississippi has been a battleground over the death penalty question since 2012 when the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals halted executions to review lethal injection. By 2016 the fight had evolved when the state's Supreme Court granted death row inmates the ability to challenge their sentence on the grounds of the controversy over lethal injection.
There are a host of issues at root in the argument of lethal injection opponents. For one, there has been more and more pushback from pharmaceutical companies who refuse to supply the cocktail in the interest of detaching themselves from the political nature of lethal injection. This has forced states to rely on flimsy suppliers to obtain it. The cocktail is also said to be rather difficult to reproduce with enough accuracy to ensure that it paralyzes the body and stops the heart with as minimal a degree of suffering as possible. Such a reality has led to numerous cases in which the procedure didn't work properly and left injected inmates to die a cruel and unusual death at the government's hands.