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Is A Second Execution Attempt Cruel And Unusual?

Publication Date: 
September 19, 2009
Los Angeles Times
Carol J. Williams

Professor Robert Weisberg, director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, comments on possible repercussions of botched executions:

As executioners poked his limbs with an IV needle, Romell Broom initially tried to speed along his own demise, flexing his arm and tugging on a rubber tourniquet to better expose a vein on the inside of his elbow.

But as prison workers repeatedly failed to find a vein strong enough to take the lethal injections, the convicted rapist-murderer began to despair over his protracted end. Witnesses and the execution-team log from Tuesday describe how the 53-year-old winced and cried as a shunt inserted in his leg also failed to open a pathway for the fatal drugs.


Robert Weisberg, a Stanford University law professor and director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, said public opinion has been little affected by previous cases where executions were botched.

What is likely to happen, he said, is an incremental backing off from capital punishment because of the costs, delays and mounting concerns about executing the innocent.


Weisberg said California is a prime example of a state that retains a death penalty in theory yet rarely conducts executions despite having the nation's biggest death row, with 685 condemned prisoners.

In California, executions have been on hold since early 2006: Lethal injections have failed to fully anesthetize inmates in six of the 13 executions conducted in the state since capital punishment resumed in 1976.