In the wake of Arizona torturing a prisoner to death this week, Josh Marshall thinks this signals the end:
Why is this craziness happening now?
The simplest, best, and almost certainly accurate explanation is that as the noose has tightened around the death penalty, both internationally and within the United States, fewer and fewer credentialed experts have been willing to involve themselves with state mandated executions. Pharmaceutical companies have become more aggressive in making sure their drugs are not used to kill people. (Here's a good run-down of the way in which Europe has sequentially banned exports of a series of drugs used in US executions - forcing states with the death penalty to keep switching from one drug to the next to evade the export bans, thus inevitably going further and further into unknown territory in terms of how these drugs work in an execution setting with relatively untrained staff.) Medical experts or really anyone with serious life sciences expertise just won't participate anymore. I'm not saying never. But it's become much more difficult. And in order to access and use the relevant medications without the knowledge of pharmaceutical companies, the people charged with finding ways to carry out executions now mostly have to operate in secret. Secrecy leads to a lack of transparency and review of methods which in turn produces more badly conceived plans and botched executions.
At the very least, I hope those states still stuck in the middle ages will be forced into transparency and away from the torture they're inflicting on prisoners. This is a clear 8th Amendment issue. It's time the courts weighed in.