Lethal Injection Fuels Debate Over Death Penalty

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The nation's highest court could change the way justice is carried out.

In the past week, two executions in Texas were halted while the Supreme Court looks at the humanity of lethal injection.

Legal experts like, Baylor’s School of Law Professor Mark Osler say the lethal injection debate is just the latest challenge of the death penalty.

"It's been brewing for a while and the biggest thing is there's never been an easy way to execute people,” Olser said.

Brazos County’s Assistant District Attorney Shane Phelps said the current issue at hand on the topic would be the last.

"I expect when this is resolved one way or another there will be new challenges," Phelps said.

Even though executions have either been suspended or stayed across the county, including two in Texas, the wheels of justice have not stopped in courtrooms across the state, including in Brazos County.

"Texas law provides for the death penalty,” Phelps said. “It's still the law in the state of Texas and seeking the death penalty and trying the death penalty cases really remains unchanged."

The question before the Supreme Court is whether or not lethal injection as it stands now in Kentucky is constitutional.

"It is whether the method by which the execution is carried out constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the constitution,” Phelps said.

It has been reported that the lethal solution injected into Kentucky inmates is similar to what is used in Texas.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, the injection consists of three parts:

·Sodium Thiopental (lethal dose-sedates person)
·Pancuronium Bromide (muscle relaxant-collapses diaphragm and lungs)
·Potassium Chloride (stops heart beat)

The offender is usually pronounced dead approximately 7 minutes after the lethal injections begins.

It is the complaint of two Kentucky death row inmates and opponents of the lethal injection that those injected with the chemicals suffer before they die.

Phelps does not believe the Supreme Court’s pending decision will result in all Texas death penalty sentences being commuted to life in prison.

What he does think is that modifications will be made and death sentences will be carried out according to the high court's decision.

"I think the states, Texas included will simply look at what the Supreme Court says and change the way we do executions to satisfy the Supreme Court,” Phelps.